Drawing a Line

F/B has started sending me memories again. I never asked for them before and didn’t mind when they stopped; now they’re back again. They’re pretty random (I think they’re date-based) but they do remind me of other summers and what I was obsessing about then (2017-18 Ancient Egypt) (2016-17 Joseph Conrad) (2015-16 Joseph Lycett). They also tell me I used to write an annual report – a grizzle about the year just passed, what worked out, what did not.

They are only mildly interesting to me now so probably even duller for others. It’s poignant that a proportion of the comments preserved below each post are from people who have died. The odd thing about that is I still hear their voices, loud and clear. Anyway I am going to attempt a brief summation of the year, mostly so that it can return to me later as a F/B memory – unless of course I’m dead too; and maybe even then.

I don’t think I wrote anything much this year that was new – a few essays and reviews perhaps – but I did revise two old texts. One is called Marlow’s Dream and subtitled Joseph Conrad in Antipodean Ports. It was drafted about five years ago and I spent quite a bit of time in the first part of the year trying to rescue it from the disaster it had become. I thought I’d succeeded but the dozen or so publishers who read and rejected the ms didn’t agree.

Or perhaps they did. The ms got a lot of praise but every encomium ended with the doom ― we can’t sell it. The reason, I think, is that it’s too literary. Whereas my main criticism of the work is that it’s not literary enough. There’s still a couple of fugitive possibilities left for it but I don’t care any more. I don’t mean I don’t care about the book. I just can’t be bothered with the shenanigans of people who profess to love a book they will not publish.

And in the old country, too, I tried to place a collection of essays with a couple of reputable houses, both of which said oh wow, great, no, we’re full, local product etc. Again I don’t care. I was an assessor for Creative NZ lately and that was an eye opener. Of course I’m sworn to secrecy and can’t tell much about anything; suffice to say it was like attending a community meeting where half the people were dog owners and the other half, pet-haters. There were a few dogs there too but they mostly just barked.

The commission that came my way from over there is the other text I’ve spent a fair amount of time on this year. I have been diligent and engaged and even, at times, inspired. The result is a third draft, which I finished a couple of days ago and which I’m happy with. There is a publisher for that so it’s all good. Won’t come out until 2024 but will be illustrated so there’s plenty of time to get that side of things right. I’m drawing a line under that one (actually under both), striking another match and starting anew.

I don’t know yet with what. I just received, in the post, my holiday reading – Aesopic Conversations, by Leslie Kurke, with the portrait of the old story teller, by Velasquez, on the cover. Happy to be spending the summer with Aesop; and then in February we’re going to Japan for a year. Our base will be Kurohime but we might travel around a bit. I’m not imagining anything. I’m not anticipating anything. I might keep a journal, I might not. I won’t be ‘writing a book’. I’ve drawn a line under that too.

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