Monday, June 18, 2007

Medicine Show #2

Just back - well, a few weeks have elapsed in real time, but in inner time, it's only a few days ago - from my second boot camp with Lindsay and Adam. The first was of course 18 months ago at Lumb Bank, whereas this one was at Tŷ Newydd in North Wales, AKA 'the Welsh Arvon.' (It's actually Lloyd George's last house, and he's buried down the lane in a tomb overlooking the river. A very peaceful spot.)

Unlike the legendary 'Slash & Burn' tactics of Lumb Bank, I actually wrote several thousand words at Tŷ Newydd. This was partially deliberate: I thought that if I cut any more of the novel, I'd become a permanent fixture on Michael Bentine's Potty Time. So I skipped a few classes - with teachers' approval - and, lashing myself to my desk in best Turner-on-deck-in-a-storm fashion, proceeded to labour away at the Beast.

The great thing about working with Adam and Lindsay is that they are perfect foils for one another, both in terms of teaching and also in their respective critical perspectives. Adam gave me some great broad-stroke comments about the piece (i.e. most of the first half of Part I), while Lindsay, as ever, had to split hairs. But, to his eternal credit, they were the right hairs to split, my homework for the last night being to cut the opening section down by 2/3.

I then spent an hour reworking the opening paragraph, hoping I could walk down the lane to the river via Lloyd George, paying my respects en route of course (it would be quite nice to have a Liberal PM again, methinks...) and then commune with the water in the way I did at Lumb Bank. However, I spent so long on that paragraph, and then reworking the following section, that I had no time to get down to the river, and had to hotfoot it to the evening meal. What was interesting, though, about this bit of slave labour, was that I'd never before spent so long on one paragraph, and somehow wrote it by feeling. Another way of saying that was that I was trying to make the language as vital as possible, using as few words as possible. Everything passive had to go: this had to be concrete images, feelings; a sense of place and forward movement; a sense of magic and wonder latent behind the ordinary.

Other highlights of the week included the drive there and back, through Snowdonia, which I' never seen before (fucking spectacular, if you'll pardon mon Français); the great pub in the village, to which Steve and I repaired nightly, joined on the Thursday by the Minor Wizard and Harry Potter themselves. (These two latter reprobates being Lindsay's and Adam's alter egos, as determined for them by students: one evening over supper, Adam admitted that former students had dubbed him Harry Potter, whom they thought he looked like, at which point one of our group thought that Lindsay looked liked 'a minor wizard.' Lindsay didn't think much of being thought minor!)