I must pause once more from writing my villanelles (pastoral or lyrical poems of 19 lines, with only two rhymes throughout and some lines repeated) and blog again in a desperate attempt to get you to buy my little murder mystery, Murder In a Cold Climate, “a complex mystery with terrific dialogue, an entertaining pastiche with snappy repartee.”
I wish to speak of the enemies of promise which keep the artist from his art. Mostly it is, they tell me, one enemy: the need to earn a living.
The idea is that if the novelist was not forced to dig ditches, plumb plumbing, wait on tables or write light pieces for magazines he would produce War and Peace. Tolstoy, remember, was a Count (repeat Count; last week’s error was a typo) he did not have to earn a living although the old fool tried to turn himself into a peasant and went on working side by side with the boys in the fields. I wonder what they thought of the boss doing that? They thought the old bastard was spying on them, of course they did.
Byron was another lord who was freed from toil. What did he do? Got himself killed in a Greek war. By the way, few people know this, but Byron only scored 4 runs in the Eton v Harrow match at Lords in 18 something or other.)
Cyril Connolly wrote Enemies of Promise (1938) in an attempt to explain why he, the biggest brain in England at the time, only wrote one novel. His genius was locked up while he made a splendid living writing book reviews for the Observer and others.
The Cyril Connolly novel was The Rock Pool (1936), in which a snobbish and mediocre young literary man from Oxford, with a comfortable income, spends a summer on the Riviera in an artists’ and writers’ colony. He studies this collection, seeing them as the denizens of a rock pool. He is, of course, dragged down into it. Compton Mackenzie got in ahead of Connolly with his novels of Capri, and Aldous Huxley got in ahead of all of them with Chrome Yellow (1921).
They are all wonderful reads, much better than anything in busy, busy, grim grey today.
Both Connolly and Huxley went to Eton and Balliol College, Oxford and the slow-paced grand manner of their prose springs from the lives they were born into, as Lucy Tantamount says in Huxley’s fourth novel Point Counter Point (1928), “You can’t cart a wagonload of ideas and romanticisms around with you these days. . . The good old-fashioned soul was all right when people lived slowly. But it’s too ponderous nowadays.”
What keeps today’s wordsmiths from penning anything wondrous could be the speed of modern life rather than having to earn a living. For example F.Scott Fitzgerald was writing advertising copy when he wrote his first novel, This Side Of Paradise; Ernest Hemingway was typing out newspaper copy when he published The Sun Also Rises, and William Faulkner was night-watchman at a lumber mill when he wrote As I Lay Dying.
We haven’t heard yet of anyone writing a novel worth reading while writing Blogs.
And what is a Blog? More disgusting-sounding today talk. I really don’t think, after 22 blogs, that I can go on doing this. As another kid with money, Shelley, said:
“We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught.”
I think I’ll go out and have a beer. Or at least dream about it.