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Amber Paulen


15 September 2010


Perhaps it’s normal, to drop into a funk after working on a single project steady for years. Yes, it’s probably normal. There’s probably lots of things I should be doing, like writing query letters or a synopsis or finding writing jobs. But instead I’ve created a character and I go online.

When I look online at the world of publishing and its moneyed literary darlings, I get depressed. I understand why Henry Miller wanted the death of literature with his Tropic of Cancer, for there is an enormous amount of seriousness and self-absorption. There is something in literature which necessitates seriousness and self-absorption, but there is as much in literature that doesn’t (like imagination). It’s time again for the Man Booker Prize and more praise for writers already applauded.

They must be good writers with their MFAs and BS and books published in all bindings and translations. I am joking myself, right? Do I really want to try and join this? I imagine I will be devoured alive by the beast that is printed literature. It is certainly daunting. It’s probably OK that I spend time burying my head.

In the meantime I read some short stories online and decide I should try my hand at that, even before the editing of the other is finished. I go to the park to finish DH Lawrence.

Yesterday I received Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker in the mail. It is heralded as a classic of Science Fiction and I’m astounded I haven’t heard of it before reading Martin Rees. But Star Maker is obviously not Science Fiction for after the cover are three quotes by three greats of “normal” fiction: Jorge Luis Borges, Doris Lessing and Virginia Woolf.

This in a letter from Virginia Woolf to Olaf Stapledon:

It seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction. But you have gone much further, and I can’t help envying you as one does those who reach what one has aimed at.

Which brings me back the seriousness of the establishment of literature. Which is part cause of my emerging interest in Science Fiction. Sometimes, something about the way we write seems as if it always misses what we want to say. Maybe this is always the case and will always be the case and no one will ever say everything. Yet we try. And it’s only trials and nothing to take so seriously. But for some reason, we must applaud ourselves for these trials and look at books as intellectual achievements instead of what they are. What are they?

I think of John Cowper Powys and his rambling powerhouses, his invocations of the inanimate, his fetishes and fantasies; I think of Porius. Now that’s a book. And I have a feeling that Star Maker is going to be such a book and so is Lady Chatterley’s Lover and there are other books being written by many writers, obscurely. Books that will never make it into the popular light because they are neither so serious nor so self-absorbed. Which is unfortunate, for we may never know of them.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful sunny day here in Rome, Italy. I should be outside; I should be walking.



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