London, England ?
The most exciting news of the weekend is that I'll be in St. Malo, France, for New Year. Anyone who's read The Method Actors knows I'm a Twelfth Night fanatic, and I'm a huge fan of Trevor Nunn's film from 1996, not least for Richard E. Grant, Mel Smith, and Ben Kingsley as Feste. It's a sweet, innocent, unassuming version of a fairly little-known play, but for me has a surreal, ominous edge ? marginalia-ed with the Japanese World War II atrocities I was reading about in depth at the time of the writing of The Method Actors. It tastes like cheap Chardonnay, feels like danger and irresponsibility and consequences coming. When you're writing a book and you're deep inside its world, what feel like coincidences arise from nowhere constantly. Along with Twelfth Night, Marlon Brando, pretty obviously, was an obsession during The Method Actors, and one of those coincidences was the discovery that Brando at age twenty played Sebastian at a production at the Long Island Sayville Summer Theatre. It's these coincidences that in your sober, clinical, detached moments are simply fortuitous, but in your wine-drunk, prose-drunk moments seem to suggest you're in tune with some deeper Potsage/W.A.S.T.E.-style conspiracy of the subconscious. Which I like.
Apparently Nunn's Twelfth Night was shot in Cornwall, and Olivia's house is a Victorian country house named Lanhydrock, but I can't confirm the exteriors for Orsino's castle ? some kind of beautiful little rocky island-castle connected with a cobbled path to the mainland, but separated at high tide. It's astonishing, and sort of imprinted in my mind from the period of writing that book. So through a friend I have this invitation to St. Malo, which I'd never heard of, for New Year, and a little preparatory research this afternoon turns up it's a walled city, isolated on an island in the mouth of the Rance River through most of the Middle Ages, where it watched over the estuary and the open sea (Corsairs and such raiding English ships passing by) and also turns up this picture of the place.
My first response being something like, Oh. My. God. My second being this is sort of almost exactly like my warped dream version of Orsino's castle, that déjà vu-type feeling that you know this place, and you've always known you were going to go here, and it's been waiting in your subconscious to be realized for more years than you can possibly know without some kind of in-depth psychoanalysis that would turn up all kinds of other evil, hideous stuff. It's a great, great feeling for a secularist whose own private god is a kind of spirit of creativity, and it bodes well for the book I'm working on now. I hope.
Because I'm writing about France, or Cannes in particular, and the film festival to be even more particular. From the perspective of a young woman who has lost her memory. This being the third part of a novel in three linked and interdependent novella/21st-century horror stories, about predation, memory loss and memory bleed, identity loss and identity bleed. And I can't say any more or some awful curse will be laid down, the matter expressed, and I will run out of why and how to say it. But I've Photosoaped (dfw-geeks ref alert) my own cover for the book, and no one will ever see this on a real book, so what better chance to show it off than here. (The logo rather blithely assumes my current publishers, the wonderful Shoemaker and Hoard, will want to publish me again.)
It's a writing cliché that every book is harder than the last, that it just gets more and more difficult, but it is sickeningly, chillingly true. So let's skip past that unpleasant part and say that even while your new book is that much harder and you're that much more frantic, anxious and inept than you were or felt you were last time, there is a certain accretion of confidence, a certain accumulation of memories of having shown will in the face of insurmountable difficulties in the past that after a certain and unspecifiable period of time you can begin to feel at your back, and that gives you something from which to push off. I often used to think fondly of Professor Ramsay in To The Lighthouse, trying to get to J out there on the water where no one has gone before. That gives you the adolescent cojones and the inflated self to get you moving. Then you think of Mrs. Ramsay, and that great maternal power, and the Prof.'s plunging beak of brass, his weakness, his need for her sympathy. And that gives you the restraint and the steadiness to control the urge to frantically set down the first thing that comes to mind (you know, just to get writing again today). And then of course, the bigger picture: just think of Virginia, think of her genius, think of that line in The Waves:
They say, Yes; they say, No; they bring their fists down with a bang on the table. But I doubt; I tremble; I see the wild thorn tree shake its shadow in the desert.
There's all the how and why in that little line.
So I saw Primal Scream at the Brixton Academy Saturday night and I'm hung-over and my ears are still ringing. Tomorrow I'll blog on seeing your heroes ten years on.
Stole this idea from Chip Kidd ? what do I have to do this week?
1. Write at least 800 words of the novel a day.
2. Start thinking about the screenplay for The Lazy Boys.
3. Book flights for St. Malo.
4. To quote the wonderful and clearly crazily busy Chip Kidd (Hey Chip, check out my cover): "Drink, drink, drink."
5. Not drink, drink, drink.
6. Update carlshuker.com.
7. Not overcompensate for worrying about what to write by overwriting.
8. Write at least 800 words of the novel a day.
9. Write at least 800 words of the novel a day.
10. Damn it, write at least 800 words of the novel a day.