Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Lindsay Clarke in Weston

Last Saturday, Lindsay made an appearance at the Winter Gardens in the Forbidden City (Weston-super-Mare to the uninitiated). It was part of a writers-meeting-readers day, which was organised by Somerset Library Services, and featured local writers (from Bristol, Devon and Dorset, and Lindsay's East Somerset).

Lindsay came on last (at 3.30pm), and proceeded to talk about how he came to write his brace of Trojan novels (The War at Troy and The Return from Troy). In fact, he dwelt mainly on how he wrote The War at Troy - which I'm currently reading - in only 4 months. After a period of crisis, during which he found himself unable to make significant progress on the book, Lindsay admitted to the gods that he was unable to write the book, which was originally intended to be a short retelling of the Trojan war stories. At this moment, inspiration struck: he found himself writing 2500-4000 words a day, but it was not the book as he had planned it. Instead of brief retellings of the Paris/Helen/Troy tales, he found himself writing a novel instead. And a long one, 440 pages. In only 4 months, he had the book finished. As he himself admitted, this was a remarkable, and unexpected, turn of events. But it only serves to remind that we are perhaps not as in charge of our affairs as we would like to think; sometimes surrender is the wiser and stronger option, as Lindsay discovered.

He also spoke about how we live inside stories, in other words that our world views are essentially fictitious. This reminds me of two things: Buddhism, and also Michael Talbot's revolutionary book The Holographic Universe, both of which stress the fact that ordinary solid objective reality is not as solid, or objective, as we are traditionally taught to believe.

It also reinforced for me the importance of - as the great Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa used to say - 'stopping the storyline.' What happens when we don't tell ourselves stories? What does our world and lives become then? How big? How strange? How full? How full of mystery? And, having lived through this new state of things, what stories are we then able to tell?

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