Constant uncertainty, and contemplating the edit without end, those are the writer’s chief modes of being. If I wore a mood ring it would always be coloured a smoky, indeterminate grey. Because I’m already thinking I should have chosen a different title for this blog – invoking all that water seems to hint at depth, when I am a dedicated paddler in the shallows, a bedazzled admirer of surface reflections.
But water finds its own level, and so, too, do blogs. If I love water’s reflective surface, I also believe that the greatest writing does not argue, or theorise, but allows space for meaning to arise in that indefinable force field between the words. My favourite of all writing quotes comes from W.B. Yeats:
‘Only that which does not teach, which does not cry out, which does not persuade, which does not condescend, which does not explain, is irresistible.’
The true source of the fountain is a trio of novels written by Rebecca West. This Real Night, which was published after her death as a sequel to The Fountain Overflows, was the first book I bought at a time when I had spent at least a year, perhaps longer, obsessively reading Colette’s Earthly Paradise.
How can anyone spend so long with one book? It takes being a slow reader to the limit. At the time I thought it was the only book I would ever read. It was as if I had gone to a desert island and had chosen to take it with me; I was in a certain mood, something other than smoky grey. But there came a point where I knew I would have to break out of Colette’s world. Enter, Rebecca West.
I loved This Real Night for its quirky glimpses of London, for its characters – not one young concert pianist but two – and for its sense of a world, albeit one in ruins, which had so recently passed away.
If I was to return to that desert island, what would I take? What would you take? Hmm, I’ll have a think and let you know. But you should, if you haven’t already, give This Real Night and its companion novels a try.