Monday, August 30, 2010

Past Scrapings

As its a bank holiday, as good a time as any to go back through old writings, and start archiving things properly. It's a Herculean task - fifteen years of computer files, before I even look at boxes of pre-computer typescripts - yet, I'm trying to be my own "literary executor" - for if not now, when will I ever find the time? I recently read Jon McGregor's excellent "If nobody speaks of remarkable things" and was surprised that it was published as long ago as 2003. I was reading it as a new reader, yet its a work the writer probably let go of seven or eight years before, began on a decade ago. My "ancient" manuscripts may yet have an after life.

It's not that you just discover past fragments you hardly remember, but whole stories that you lovingly sent off to this magazine or that, but haven't read for a decade. I like these "past scrapings" of a literary lifestyle, but they also perplex me. Roads not travelled mostly, or, more often, travelled down a bit, then reversed away from. I've suddenly found a story "Last Train from Euston" that I remember well, but apparently never included in any of the photocopied story magazines I used to hand out to friends. I have a feeling its pre-2000, but can't be at all certain (as its been copied from one computer to another over the years.) Another story is sat on my computer in a half-finished version, yet I've a copy of the full story in print somewhere. It's like the file somehow got half erased, like digital termites got in and began eating it away. There are two or three stories of autobiographical youth, a genre I rarely think about - genre stories; fairy stories; travel stories. My collected works would be the size of a house!

Yet funnily enough, this slightly distant past - some of it seemingly a lifetime away - seems nearer than things I've started in the last year or two then neglected. Perhaps its a sense of distance, but I can recognise the writer I am then, easier than the one I am now. Going through old works allows me to reconstruct my own narrative - give it form - in a way that has some coherence to it. The future, in comparison, remains an open book.


Jim Murdoch said...

I know what you're going through. I recently took the step of uploading all my writing to the cloud to make sure that if the house burns down I can have access to all the important stuff. I use Dropbox because it also updates archives I keep on both my laptop and desktop but SkyDrive offers 25GB for free - not to be sniffed at. It's hard to keep pace with all of it.

Adrian Slatcher said...

I've always been quite good at keeping stuff - on CD-R and increasingly the cloud (Dropbox is great isn't it?) - but been trying to organise and index stuff is another matter! The archives of the future will be a mix of paper-based artefacts and old hard-drives!