Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grinding it Out, (Re)Discovering Paul Bowles ...

Thursday, November 17, 2011—Orange, CA

Feeling tired, ready for some new rhythms in my life. I will get them pretty soon—after today there’s only three more weeks of the semester at SCC and three and a half at IVC. My “break” will be busy, but at least the commute will go away for a while. I’ll also have a much more reasonable schedule time wise, by which I mean I’ll lose the stupid 7:00 AM class I’m now teaching. There’s so much I want to do, need to do right now and I’m chomping at the bit—it’s hard to have any kind of life when all you do is sit around grading tests and papers weekend after weekend.

There are a few other things going on. I’m prepping Heaping Stones for a Kindle edition. It’s weird doing a close reading of that book after five years. In many ways it really holds up. It’s definitely not me anymore, though. This is a good sign. The reason a person writes a book like that is to but a phase of life behind him. The fact that I’m not close to the work anymore shows that I’ve done that. I've also reread parts of What Love Is, Heaping Stones’ companion novel, which I shelved a couple years back. I’m now really glad I pulled it. It’s definitely a step backwards from HS, both in the quality of the writing and in its revelations. With it I think I was trying to keep alive things that I didn’t really need in my life anymore; I was done with that Rob but couldn’t quite admit it.

Been thinking some about my next writing project. As I mentioned in a previous post, I think I’m going to put the third Backwaters novel away for a while: I just don’t have the enthusiasm to tackle that project at the moment; I’m still too burned out on its universe from all the work I did on its two companions. I’m more convinced than ever that I should be working on my Greek book, starting next semester. Both the change in subject(s) and the move to non-fiction will really stretch and refresh me. Plus, I really don’t want to force out a third Backwaters book when I’m not ready. That “legendarium” has been so successful and fulfilling that it would be a tragedy to produce a dud final out of some misplaced feeling of obligation. The book will happen when it’s ready to happen.

I’ve managed to squeeze in some reading this last week. Still working on Pounds’ Economic History of Medieval Europe, still getting a lot out of it too. Been dipping into Mallory’s Arthurian tales a bit more as well. The last several days, though, I’ve been diving into Paul Bowles’ work. I first tried to read The Sheltering Sky, his most famous work, years ago and couldn’t get into it. I’ve been hearing great things about him, especially lately, so I thought I’d give his stuff another whirl. I picked up Let It Come Down, his second novel, from the IVC library on Monday and it’s great. He writes some of the clearest, cleanest prose I’ve ever read (it makes me wonder if I might be a bit sloppy at points). His explorations of expatriate life in Tangier are also compelling, in a dark tawdry way. Gore Vidal considers him to be one of America’s all-time great writers. It wouldn’t surprise me if I eventually end up agreeing with him. I grabbed The Spider’s Nest, another one of his novels, to get started on this weekend, by which point I should have finished Let It Come Down. It’s rare these days when I feel the need to dive into a writer’s work headfirst. This can be nothing but a good sign. Reading Bowles is making me want to get back to my own writing even more.

A few more semesters like this one and I’ll be finished a writer. I of course won’t let that happen. It’ll be interesting to see how I save myself.

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