I talk constantly about the witness of the day, how it sees everything and holds court on it. Today, writing early before I’m even dressed, I’m hoping to pre-empt it and avoid the recent occurrence of feeling as though I’m running from its witness.
Writing with an honesty of voice – this is something to aspire to. The form and nuances you can dismiss as bound by the peculiars of taste; dishonesty cannot be dismissed in this way. The dishonesty of voice exhibited here is not born of malice however, but of naivety, of lack of focus and – perhaps – time. It is not honest, is not revealing a truth, it is not a truthful expression of what wants to be said.
Interesting, then, to read Sebald. Still I am reading Sebald, and what a slow read. Given the easily read serif, the generously set type and the modest length of Vertigo, it should not take this long. The prose is not over elaborate and much of his essaying travelogues drive the reader forward with the characters. Still however, I have been reading it for weeks, reading it for weeks and enjoying every laboured second.
Not consciously taking my time, I still however find it difficult to read more than a paragraph without drifting into sets of relation, into comparisons with my own recollections and, indeed, ways of recollecting. The last book like this was Kis (two months of broken reading), who I continually seem to reference when talking of Sebald. It’s a matter of impact, this relation between Kis and Sebald, but also there are parallels in the surety of voice and the seamless transition between authorial revelation, narrative passages, recounted stories and character voice. Kis is more explicit in those pages where he ties things together in a presupposed grand history, Sebald cannot bring himself to this level of curation, preferring instead to deny a grand history and rely on a thematic weave. Both succeed where perhaps Kundera (the entry level writing-as-variations author) is too obtuse. Kundera, however, still writes a fine novel, and is humorous with it.
(I learnt yesterday, that humorous used to be used frequently to mean damp or moist, presumably related to the root of humid - one of those nice archaisms that resonates beautifully in the modern use of the word.)
Here I am now, ahead of the day for the first time this week. I’ve set it back against itself and can prepare to pick my way through it. Contracts and production schedules await me. I plan to work from home in this dim corner of my room amidst the tired looking plants and coffee cups, but should receive respite with a journey across town to a photographer’s studio, where I’ll sit flanked by large flatscreen monitors and look at beautiful photos of a near-derelict building. The day is on the run.