Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

jbrady's blog

Imaginary Homelands: the long way around... and is a prosperous society boring?

The same thoughts come every day. They’re vexing but necessary, and in a strange way they are reassuring. But in their wake the same bewilderment and anger leak in, the same wishfulness and longing. Such thoughts are also embarrassing to air publicly… so therefore I will. These thoughts are hardly thoughts at all actually; they’re more imaginings. They are, of course, about Ireland.

Some background first – some ‘cover.’

'Shut up,' he explained. Man-talk / editors and the demotic / the Inchoate vs the Good-in-school.

I ‘m trying a bit too hard to get the voices right in two characters, friends since childhood, in this novel. To that end, I head back every day to refine what they say, and to rewrite – often minute details – parts that I thought were long ‘safe’ / ‘finished’/ ‘in the can.’ There is no ‘can’ apparently. Hearing their voices more and more clearly each day, and having them mutter away in the back of my mind, makes this editing necessary. It can be annoying, but I do keep that saying visible above the desk at home: ‘Books are never finished. They’re merely abandoned.’ (Wilde?)

Cause and Effect?

Sometimes – often? – writing can bring on delusions. Really.

Bear in mind that there’s a critical difference between falling into the unconscious or uncontrolled delusional fantasies, and diving into same. This ‘falling/diving’ dichotomy is used to comment on the difference between Lucia Joyce’s sad life bound up in severe mental illness, and the products of her father’s imaginings and explorations beneath the surface of life and language.

Scene of the crime / library paean

Scene of the crime/ library paean

Work, in the form of writing, hurls me out of the house every morning. Home is for family, for goofing off. Only rarely will I work on a manuscript at home. Home is where I am myself. There’s an avalanche of irony waiting to fall on this ‘self’ business, but it’ll remain unsaid. What I mean is, at home I’m a husband, a father, a brother, and so forth. There are no airs at home. There’s plain talk, daily stuff that look a lot like dishes, or laundry or bills. The only illusions are the ones that keep the domestic economy going. All the letters and the phrases and the sentences, and all the teeming thoughts and notions and half-wishes and dreams and imaginings – the whole shooting gallery - they will wait. It’s not like I am ever short of that stuff.

Fail better..? A meditation

Mistakes: failures are your teachers

Once you hear Beckett’s non-advice, you never forget it:

Fair. Fail again. Fail better.

For me, it is a call to endure, to be resilient. It has a subtle comic charge too: a writer shouldn’t take him or herself seriously. Beckett was deadly serious of course, but he knew better than most that how the serious and the comic share the same space. So for me, ‘failure’ is the engine of writing - just as I'd say it is the raw material of Darwin’s revolutionary theory.

The trouble with this 'failure' thing is that it can become a prescription. The mind sabotages itself very well, in what’s called the ironic effect. Having kids who are now passed through their teens, I know more about that topic than I did.

Tools of the trade

C'est ne pas une

Fresh and a bit ragged from a recent discussion with a fellow author – Mr Unnamed, and the discussion was in a licenced premises, with a fair amount of ribaldry and the kind of mockery that men friends so lavishly shower on one another – I tried to revisit a long-standing practice about writing. This is something you meddle with at your peril. But change is good, right..? No, not in this case. Result: I have to conclude that pen I am using isn’t a pen at all. It’s actually a wand, or maybe it’s even a madeleine.

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