One of the fringe benefits of the MA course has been the discovery of new writers, and not just those who sat next to me in class. Roberto Bolaño, Italo Calvino, James Robertson, David Foster Wallace, John Burnside and Junot Diaz to name a few have all been an absolute joy to meet.
The down side to these new friends is their sheer number. For the first time in my life I have more than one book on the go at the same time: 17 to be precise. This has never happened to me before. I may be flighty, even flaky on occasion, but if I’m into you; I’m into you. Not for me the Freudian slipping between monogamy/monotony; well, at least not with books. Nowadays I can barely get through a chapter before another book sashays up beside me, flops down with it’s cover slipping over one shoulder, leaves akimbo promising me a good time. Sometimes they bring wine. I can’t say no.
Last week I added Ali Smith to the list. I am not at all embarrassed at only discovering her now, but I regret being without her for so long. I am reading The Accidental and it is marvellous. If I could mainline prose I would open a vein for Ali.
She has made me aware for the first time of another writers influence in my work. At least I am hoping the combined power of fervent wishing and magic wine will elevate my writing to the very worst first Ali Smith draft. I am working on a non-fiction book about spiritualism and The Accidental has shown me a more sophisticated fictional device I can use than the rocks I have been bashing against my narrative hoping for fire.
I think I can also detect a limitation. Mine not hers. I have been struggling with my fiction and reading The Accidental, I wonder if I am simply not subtle enough for make-believe. I am too impatient: I tell where I could show. I guide where I should point and I hold your hand when I should let you run. I cliché when I should leave you to your own truth and this makes me very unhappy. I don’t speak emoticon because it is stupid, but if I did I would be colon-left bracket.