October 9, 2013 at 11:07 am Leave a comment


It was fascinating to read an unpublished manuscript and talk to the author about what we liked and didn’t like, and which bits he thought he might cut or change. It was a real insight into the sheer amount of work involved in producing a book.

I guess if we readers work hard we can imagine that it must involve a lot of writing and rewriting, over and over, but the challenge of endless decision making is not so obvious. Every bit of a book must be created, edited, positioned, kept or cut, and each decision, once made, can be revisited at any moment. It’s a heavy burden on a writer, like living in a world with no givens. In writers’ world, in order to walk a step you must first create a world on which to put your foot. Imagine doing that act of creation again and again, with each step, so that these new worlds burst into life and ripple out, up and around every time your foot comes down, only to be replaced with the next maternal step.

The book itself was also a great insight, from an insider, into the gay party scene, and the complexity of long term relationships, gay and otherwise, within that scene.

This was the second part. We read the first part for the bookgroup before last. At one level the second part is a romp around the world with a couple, rob and Alex, who have a lot more sex, drugs, money and travel than most of us will ever manage.  At another level it’s a sappy love story that seems to say, gay or not, just stop agonising. If you love him/her, keep doing it as best you can.

Like the first half, the second also has several other levels. These include good humoured attacks on very legitimate targets like the Catholic Church, and post-modern academia, along with some crime, laughs and adventure.

However the shining moment is the end. Its a joyous chapter where all these levels come together in a glamourous, adventurous, feel good scenario, involving a wedding in Dubai with the best vows of all time.

Prior to this there are many other, briefer, shining moments. The whole book is peppered with surprisingly inventive sentences, that get your attention with colour and insight. It also assaults the reader with something I’m not sure I have ever seen a writer get right before – that moment when two  people meet and there is instant chemistry. The history of the novel in some ways is the history of growing the myth of love at first sight. Writers across the centuries have built this myth from the seed of truth we all recognise – when we meet someone that disturbs our senses, if that effect seems mutual. Here the truth behind the myth is respected, not turned into an imaginary scene involving Princes, or white picket fences. It’s done accurately, it gets the physical gestures we do, and the social manoeuvres we use, when in that situation, just right.

The disturbing thing, though, was that despite all these virtues there is still a lot of work that could be done on the book to improve it. Bookgroupers gave feedback about pacing, particularly at the start, and structure, and some characters. With all the work that had gone into it, and the high quality of a lot of it, the fact there was still a lot more that could be done, did remind me that the task of a writer is not easy

Our other task for this bookgroup was to read a little Proust. Those of us present had actually done this, and it made for a good discussion. He is so famous, and so discussed by the literati, it was great to read a bit and taste what the fuss is all about.

He would not have been a good dinner guest, self obsessed, verbose, sickly, overly sensitive, and humourless. Judging by his writing he may have been one of the most annoying men to ever live, but he may also be one of the most insightful.

His famous, and enormous novel, A la recherche de temps perdu, begins with over 6 pages describing – wait for it – the second or so between between sleeping and waking when you are not sure which is which. He manages turn this moment in to the story of his life, the history of the world, and time itself. Later, I’m told he spends 70 pages on his break up with his girlfriend – wait for it – the girlfriend he had very briefly when he was 14.

I won’t spend time on the obvious negatives. Germaine Greer has demolished the whole thing in the Guardian in a more entertaining manner than I could manage.

Despite Germaine’s entertaining, and accurate, protestations the positives are undeniably there. For example the tiny bit I read did hold a lot of truth and beauty, so much so that I can see why people might say it captures the essence of being human. I would say though, that in 2,000 pages it might be hard not to get something right a some point. From what i could gather the moments of joy, while real and deep, would not be enough to keep me going though the whole tortured thing.

Like Germaine Greer, I don’t care who you are – Joyce or Proust – sentences that cover a whole page are bad writing.



insearch   swann


Entry filed under: american, australian, travel.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


October 2013
« Sep   Nov »

Most Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: