Wednesday, December 22, 2004


When I think about my novel, I think how awful it is, how poorly constructed, how it lacks in insight, how the writing is not stylish, how I cannot be proud of it.

When I read it with a view to revising it, I find that I cannot find other ways to construct it, that it is sometimes lyrical, cleverly put together and in the round something that most would be very proud of. It has flaws, which I suppose I should put straight, because if I can find none, I can begin to be confident in it, but it is not the wreck I like to think it is.

Of course it is not the mature work that I will do and this is part of the problem. I want what I write to encompass all that I feel, all that I know, all that I understand. Writing is in large part peacockery -- or I feel it ought to be.

Feel. It's important to be clear with yourself that what you feel and what you think can be contradictory, violently so. My understanding of texts as processes, with authorship shared among the writer, the reader and the discourses both bring to the text (not so much the harmony of shared context as the clanging discord of differing contexts that each fit in their own way), is clear. But I still feel that I want to be recognised as a canonical author, an important writer. The two cannot easily be reconciled.

I have been thinking about aberrant decoding. It seems the ultimate enemy of the modernist (for whom I have a great deal of sympathy, of course). Eliot fought it with footnotes and allusion; others with an insistence on the precision of their writing and the value of precise communication (which is still something orthodox today, even though it is entirely unsupportable). The understanding that words are ongoing negotiations between speakers and listeners (writers and readers, if you like) tends to make one complacent in believing that once negotiated, meaning is shared, while it should alert one to the possibility that the other side is still haggling even when you're done.

It strikes me that I can decode my own work aberrantly. I can misinterpret myself and misalign the contexts that are required to understand it. Given this, how would it ever be possible to write something you can be pleased with?


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