Monday 24 February 2003

Another boy meets form

It’s as though I’m all over the place, a thousand topics to write about and no idea where to start. There’s a thread connecting these thousand topics though, one to another; or rather, hundreds of threads, which must be why I’m writing—or attempting to write—hypertext, since the book I’ve dreamed about writing remains resolutely unwritten.

Ray Davis—“unable to finish new fiction”, “unable to finish new essays”, “unable to start new reviews”, and unwilling to resign himself to commercial writing—describes how he broke through:

In ten years of confusion, backtracking, and intermittent clarity, I’d gained ability and access, but my capability stayed stubbornly put. In 1999 as in 1989, the writing was motivated by dialogue, you-gotta-see-this enthusiasm, problem solving, and the mesmerizing glitter of verbal artifacts-cum-artifacts; it remained mulishly unspurred by ambition but turned into Red Hot Ryder’s mighty Sliver whenever it whiffed a digression — “Whoa, horsey! Aw, come on, horsey, won’t you please whoa?” —; and it arrived as opaque fragment or self-undermining rant or pseudo-conversational speech.

Boy meets form. “For good or for bad,” as one mildly disapproving friend said.

Three-and-a-half-years in, the compeers swarm and I grow ever more grateful to the form. Which is saying something, since it started pretty much saving my life from the get go.

Discovering Ray’s post a couple of weeks ago was a revelation, like reading my own history, my own dilemma, lived out and solved by someone else. It’s been slowly working its magic since then. I have no idea what Ray looks like but it felt like I was in Ray’s body looking in a mirror at my own face: Ray’s hand grasping the mirror, my face reflected back. Or the other way round.

Boy meets form. Yup. Pretty much saved my life from the get go too.

And, of course, there aren’t really a thousand different topics. Just one, seen from a thousand different angles: the firebombing of Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945. For good or bad.

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On "the book that never gets writen" but the articles/long-posts that do, take a look at Charles Handy's (business) books. In most cases they're artful re-assemblages of the articles that he's written over the previous couple of years, each extending a particular thread. Given your own preference for themes (Japan, war, photography etc) and MT's easy categorisation of them, perhaps you've actually got several books on the go, Jonathon, and never known it? :-}

Posted by Tom G. on 26 February 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

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