Monday, December 26, 2016


Introducing novelists Colin Talbot & Shane Maloney at Collected Works Bookshop recently, for the former's book launch on December 9th, '16, I described a potential customer's enquiry as to whether we stocked any "amusing travel books"… Jules Verne? I wondered to our audience. Joseph Conrad? Malcolm Lowry? B Traven? Traven Collins aka Colin Talbot?

Long captivated by the splicing of author & character(s) in novels, I'm led to ask the question What is "fiction"? --what is fiction for Colin Talbot, for example, who's first to confess that his form of detective fiction isn't concerned with serial killers! He'll say it's his vehicle for writing, writing per se. There'll be another opportunity to discuss Talbot's work, but since mentioning Lowry that night the latter has been in my mind, and only yesterday did I select Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place as my travelling companion to & fro' the sea on the 246 bus, & whose author was then quoted into my Christmas Day "Beach Report" largely written in situ (posted on F/book & the Poetry & Ideas blog).

Thinking about Malcolm Lowry and reading the collection's first couple of stories, The Bravest Boat & Through the Panama, moved to say that it's a writing laden with 'the art of'. Author's investment in novel as if mythology --concurrent levels of the revelatory fiction. Author here symbolist but not psycho-analyst whatever the volition of his time. He is artist projecting own system of significance but intuits there's no interpretation ahead of the experience which, for consummate writer, is doubly recollected --by & as intense memory & intense invention, & remembered again & again.

Imagine Lowry --poet, poetic intellectual, novelist in age of realism become more-or-less reportage --Bellow, for example, in the '40s, memorably exploiting one of Joyce's tricks without concomitant commitment to larger scheme or idea --story-telling entirely within rhythm of the colloquial, sounding out 'as we think & speak' which was called, when we were young, "contemporary", meaning, I think, post-literary --H E Bates for example, as present-time D H Lawrence one thought then, having cut to the vernacular chase, as earthy & corporeal as DHL but novelistically one-dimensional… Imagine Lowry seeking something else, perhaps as something-else's conduit… Doesn't he let it all slip there on p27 of the paperback collection (leapt when I read it)? "The further point is that the novel is about a character who becomes enmeshed in the plot of the novel he has written, as I did in Mexico. But now I am becoming enmeshed in the plot of a novel I have scarcely begun. Idea is not new, at least so far as enmeshment with characters is concerned. Goethe, Wilhelm von Scholz, 'The Race with a Shadow.' Pirandello, etc. But did these people ever have it happen to them?
Turn this into triumph : the furies into mercies.
-- The inenarrable inconceivably desolate sense of having no right to be where you are; the billows of inexhaustible anguish haunted by the insatiable albatross of self."

Philosophical complexity of 'having no right' allows practical translation at least as no ease with conventional relations, that is regarding definition of the story & story-telling, where elegance & efficacy congeal, & the edges refined, the bumps & whorls of perception's plenitude eliminated…


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