Monday, July 28, 2008
Last week, I finally read the manuscript of a colleague's novel. I've had it on my office desk since last fall, having mentioned to her that I'd like to read it after hearing she'd had a chapter published and had once been close to having the novel picked up by a press. Then the term got going and I never managed to get it read and was beginning to wonder why I'd put myself in the awkward position of soliciting something that I'd never be able to return unread and, furthermore, would have to find something positive to say no matter what I thought of it. So I sat in my big comfy chair last week and started reading. The first few pages required patient suspension as I waited for the puzzle pieces to begin taking their shape, but after that, I got caught up in trying to fit their shapes into a sensible whole as well as admiring the characterization, the convincing dialogue, and the skilful use of language, literary, almost poetic in places, but never distractingly so. Because the novel isn't published (so you won't be able to get/read it anyway), I won't bother reviewing it more than that, but I did want to record my wonder at the commitment to writing. The elaborate plotting must have required much mapping out and I can only imagine how many revisions. Yet the novel, well-written, compelling in its own way, satisfyingly redemptive yet not simplistically so, will be hard to place with the economic landscape of publishing today, and my colleague wrote all along with a pragmatic recognition of this. I have several other friends who labour in similar fields, seeding, ploughing, weeding, and finally harvesting crops that never make it to market. Meanwhile, my own stack of unread books seems to creep ever higher, and I often neglect it to add words here or there. What is it about, this desire to write it down?