Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Unconscious Novel

Yesterday Lindsay's group met again. This is only the second time I've been there this year, but I think I've only missed one or two meets, as our regular schedule has been interrupted by various factors, one of which is Lindsay's struggle to complete his new novel, Sun at Midnight. Well, I say 'new', but he's been working on it since about the time Alice's Masque came out (and that was 1994). He told us that, when he'd begun the book, he'd had a dream where he was told that the book was already written, and all he had to do was write it down. He then proceeded to do this, while at the same time working on other projects (radio plays, the Celtic Stories, the Troy novels and of course the marvellous Parzival and the Stone from Heaven). However, he became stuck on one important aspect of the back story, and only this summer did the answer present itself. In relating this to us, he reminded us that we should never underestimate the power or the role of the unconscious in our work; it always knows best, and we should listen to it. If something doesn't feel right, it must be addressed, it must be worked on.

This is precisely the problem I'm having with Elias, especially since asking a close friend for advice over the summer. Her advice was to make the character of the new housekeeper - in what may or may not become the Prologue - a more interesting character, perhaps a dyer. I thought this was a great idea, as it would mean that this character becomes at once much more interesting and dynamic. But I also felt that it would entail a major rethink of the Prologue, and had a bit of a meltdown. On the way up the M4 to see Lindsay and the gang yesterday, I realised that these supposed big changes were not so big at all. In fact, I really can't see what I was so mortified about to start with.

Despite this, the gut feeling remains that Elias is worth doing; moreover, it's something I have to do. Even in the last month, when I've been working on the fairy novel, thoughts about Elias have been popping up here and there. On a recent trip to New York City, for instance, I suddenly felt that NYC would have to appear in the book, from its earliest incarnation as New Amsterdam (which will make an appearance in the Starkey narrative) to its ceding to the British and change of name in 1667 (towards the end of the novel, when Helvetius is about to publish his account of meeting Elias and the subsequent attempt at performing a transmutation).

So: trust your gut (even if it's slightly larger than one would presently like!). That reminds me, the gut has been called 'the second brain'... but perhaps that's something I'll leave for another time.

As a postscript to this one, however, I can report that the fairy novel got the thumbs up - with a few caveats. Also, we discussed Patrick Harpur, whom Lindsay knows. The tremendously exciting news is that Patrick's long out-of-print masterpiece on alchemy, Mercurius, is finally being re-issued next month. All hail.
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