Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Long Haul

There's a certificate on the wall of my old bedroom at my parents which says "Lineage - a novel by Adrian Slatcher, shortlisted for 1995 Lichfield Prize." I missed the ceremony because I was in America though I came down to a small promotional film for it - which I don't think I've ever seen. This was my autobiographical novel, albeit mixed in with a made-up plot. I guess it was the first time anyone who didn't know me had read my work and liked it. I always think I was a bit of a late starter - only going to college to study creative writing when I was 30, but "Lineage" was my second novel, and I wrote it when I was 28. I guess it surprises me that it never lead to anything - it was deliberately a provincial book and the couple of agents I sent it to were clearly of that opinion as well. I was, as well, constraining my style - which could be a little too American - and just "writing properly" - I've always retained a tension here. At the debate a couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of comments about writers being internationalised, and writing mid-Atlantic. Although I like "The Life of Pi", I think its a good example. A Canadian writer, published in Scotland, set in India, and in a style that is the current American vogue - sentences honed, perfectly workable, perfectly understandable, but somehow lacking local colour. How could they after all? Its an international book. Jane Smiley's probably the best example of this kind of writing, her books are all utterly different subjects, genres, but her language is this honed non-style. I'm not saying its always wrong - its just that you have to wonder what's being lost when those individual differences go. I'm just reading Bret Easton Ellis's "Lunar Park" its first chapter an "autobiography" about Bret himself. Its literature eating itself, but as always with him, utterly fascinating. Its got a looseness about the writing which seems very "now" as well - this is raw, unedited stuff (yet, edited), reminds me of "The Crack Up" or "Seymour: an Introduction" or John Cheever. He talks about his first lines - how they've changed over time, from one-liners to convoluted and how the new book is about going back to that simplicity. When I've time I might go back over my own "first lines" see where they're at! I spoke with a friend the other week who I'd not seen for a long time, she's just finishing a scriptwriting course, fitting it in between work, family, life etc. and we kind of compared case notes from the trenches - and I realised, yeah, you go down this route and you're in for the long haul, success or no success.

No comments: