climbers: the journal
The notes on which I based Climbers were taken in situ in a series of cheap notebooks with puppies and flowers on the front, often given to me as presents by family members. I began gathering material in 1979. By 1983, this collection had become a rat’s nest, so I took to transferring each worked-up note–by then often a finished, polished scene–into a sort of journal, which also contained some commentary, structural ideas, lists of names and so on, along with polaroids, postcards, news clippings and other material. These notes, the earliest of which is dated 1st January 1983 and the latest 2nd November 1988, were transcribed in obsessively neat handwriting using a strict rota of coloured pens. Though I lost the original notebooks, I still have the journal. It stood in a complex relationship with, and served as a feeder for, the actual writing of Climbers, which went on concurrently elsewhere; also as a record of one of happiest and most productive times of my life. The pages were carefully numbered. The photographs, especially polaroids, have become faint and dark-looking at the same time, tinged with purples and greens not present in the lived scene.p101, 5.2.84, the earliest working synopsis.p116/7, 4.4.84, Tissington Spiresp191/2, 10.3.85, mentions a 35mm photo, long gone, of a child’s shoes “dumped at the edge of the road under Craig y Forwin.”197/8, 17.9.85: the photo is of the author, on “Toy”, Curbar Edge, a month later.
The new edition of Climbers, introduced by Robert Macfarlane, can be pre-ordered now from Amazon UK, in ebook and paper; or bought at a bookshop from May 10th.
Very interesting, indeed. I would like to read some essays (preferably a big hardcover collection) by you on the process of writing, especially in regards to particular works. For example, did you use different colours of ink working on the Kefahuchi Trilogy? If so, what colours represented what elements of the characters/story/asides/insides? Was one like the edge of burning paper? Did the tract have its own shade or was it the notebook or one of the notebooks? Were the tatoos smart enough?
Uzwi – thanks for sharing this; exquisite handwriting! Shame there couldn’t be a limited edition with some reproductions of journal pages. The new edtion can keep my old Phoenix paperback company; it’s given me a lot of joy, has Climbers.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about publishing one of those special edition e-books where earlier drafts and notes can be accessed by the reader: Climbers Redux! I could definitely go for some extended scenes with an Author’s Commentary!
The presentation of ‘source material’ in Climbers is particularly interesting because of the way you use a kind of ‘autobiography’ as a literary device to create very specific effects of identification.
You’re one of the very few writers, I think, whose writings on his own work (the blog for instance) – pose more questions that they answer – forcing the reader to do more work (follow up references, etc) rather than neatly tying things off.
anzanhoshin: there’s a very interesting interview with MJH in Parietal Games about the process of writing Climbers which might answer some of your questions – and pose a few more.
[…] climbers: the journal | the m john harrison blog "Though I lost the original notebooks, I still have the journal. It stood in a complex relationship with, and served as a feeder for, the actual writing of Climbers, which went on concurrently elsewhere; also as a record of one of happiest and most productive times of my life. The pages were carefully numbered. The photographs, especially polaroids, have become faint and dark-looking at the same time, tinged with purples and greens not present in the lived scene." Beautiful documentation of work in progress. (tags: books climbers mjohnharrison process writing ) […]