Some of the post-industrial landscape of the new book–limestone quarrying above the Severn gorge.
Cool photo. Any chance you’d think of including images with text?
What do you think of Sebald? Also, a related question, where do you stand on Autofiction? I think of you as a precursor to the autofiction writers, but whereas, they tend to have a dismissive attitude to genre tropes you try to use them.
Also they have a conceptual framework which seems to be ILLUSION/FANTASY AS CHILD-LIKE/IMMATURE, REALITY/REALISM AS ADULT which for me aligns them to the New Athiests and Dawkins way of talking to deplorables.
I saw Rachel Cusk give a talk last night. She was really convincing. Previously autofiction had made me unaccounbtably irritated….
Just putting this out there.
Thanks, Gina. The ground near me has been mined/undermined using one method or another since the Cistercians set up their nearby abbey. Take your dog out in the morning, if you have one, which I don’t, and this is where it’ll get lost.
Hi David, interesting questions. Some quick answers, off the top of my head–
Bill Gibson’s very useful phrase, “unevenly distributed” seems to me to be universally applicable. Techniques, styles and schools of thought and writing, all exist currently, and they’re unevenly distributed. They’re available to different people, to different degrees, at different, as it were, sites. They’re also smeared out in time. If you review a lot of books, you see that the present isn’t really present, it’s smeared-out, imbricated, stratified, discontinuous. Make a cut down at one place—Ottessa Moshfegh—it gives you one value for “now”; make a cut down somewhere else—David Means—it gives you another. At 70 years old, you accept this, and open your work up to it. It’s all been the present to me, and still is. I never belonged anywhere, though I sometimes tried; now that there’s nowhere to belong to, it turns out I belong to that. My rule, for the moment at least: make it all available to your work. In the end, everything to do with authentic writing has the prefix “idio”.
There’s not much doubt that Climbers is a kind of autofiction—but also that it relates directly at one end to the classic autononfictional methods of the 1920s & 30s and at the other to what was known in the 60s & 70s as “faction”. At time of writing–the smeared present 1978 to 1989–I was welcoming any form that would enable me to write directly about my own experience. Sometimes I could do that more effectively by re-ordering it; sometimes by binding it with records of other people’s experience; sometimes by adding a controlled amount of pure fiction.
The recent “Yummy” would be an example of how I do that now. Ninety-five percent of that story is outright autofiction, but what brings it alive is the five percent fiction that steers it. Another example, using completely opposite techniques, would be the fantasy “Jack of Mercy’s”, a Dylanesque disguise which is as close to memoir as it is distant from mimesis. Both are autobiographical. Neither are. My final example would be the introduction to “M John Harrison: Critical Essays”, which implicates autobiography, memoir, fiction, criticism, self-criticism, metacriticism and more, in an attempted autofictional home invasion. A seriously corrosive mix. If you can see flashes of bone in the goo then my work there is done.
I love both Sebald and Cusk. I’m an atheist, but with complications. I lived closely with deplorables until I was twenty. It made me lonely for the rest of my life. I voted remain and although I love nonsense imagery such as “the astral plane” –because who wouldn’t–I favour knowledge gained by powerfully standardised intellectual tools.
Hope that helps.
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