Sunday, March 13, 2011


In a rare attempt to get this blog back on track, i.e. bring it back to talking about the novel whose writing it's supposed to be charting, I note that today is the 409th anniversary of Alexander Seton's transmutation in Enkhuizen, a pivotal moment in what had been Part I of Elias. This has become one of the main dates in my alchemical calendar, a sort of Hermetic Rite of Spring (although whether 13 March 1602 would have marked the coming of spring is debatable, given that Northern Europe was still in the grip of the so-called Little Ice Age, which saw much severer winters between about 1550 and 1850). Nevertheless, today has become a significant anniversary, and I can look back on the book's progress and wonder why, unlike Seton, have not been able to pull off my magnum opus.

Writing a novel part-time is not advisable; there are too many distractions. And, of course, the need to earn money. Since I began Elias, I have written 4 non-fiction books, am working on a 5th, revised my first two books (published in 2001, before Elias was begun), contributed to two others, made 3 feature-length films, shot 4 documentaries for other people, made two shorts and appeared in 4 TV programmes. And at one point, I even had the strength of mind and purpose to lose 4 stone. (Sadly 3 went back on, which I now have to lose again.) So, I have not exactly been navel-gazing for the last few years, which is some solace I supppose for what has become a very frustrating enterprise, and I have to admit to wondering whether I should carry on with Elias at all.

A recent conversation with a gentleman from Angus has put things into perspective. I showed him the outline for all 4 parts (that number again!), and he felt that I had enough material for at least two novels, with Part I - Seton's narrative - being a separate novel. I must admit, it has always felt slightly apart from the other sections, mainly because most of the action is seen through the eyes of an alchemist, whereas in the later parts, the alchemists are supporting characters - catalysts for change in the various protagonists. I think JR (the man from Angus, and no relation to Dallas or William Gaddis) is right - Seton deserves a novel all to himself. Which means I now have to rework Parts II-IV. But I'll deal with that challenge when I come to it: I've always felt that, if I can sort out Part I, the rest will fall into shape organically. Or, as Lindsay Clarke advised, symphonically. So, it seems I will carry on, at least to the end of Part I. And then I will have to judge the lay of the land.

But today at 4pm, raise a glass of aquae vitae for the great Alexander Seton.

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