Monday, July 14, 2008

The Last Victorian Novelist

This is Monday. The official bi-weekly publishing date of the Valley Voice is Wednesday. That means that two days from now a modest display ad in that feisty little periodical will carry a modest ad about my writing. Among other things the ad says, quoting my wife, "The last Victorian novelist is finally published."
It had been jiggeting around in my mind that I would have to come up with a post that would explain this spousal observation on my style, structure, and substance, and I was looking forward to do so in fairly academic fashion until last night, when I was actually rescued by the one name that everyone who can read associates with the Victorian age of big, fat, stories often released in installments.
Charles Dickens.
Yes, rescued.
We were at a modest concert in a coffee house, right here in Nelson, overlooking the old rail yard and operated, as the universal unfolding would have it, by a daughter of Eric Johnson, the Nelson native and folksinger who made us feel so at home in the first days in the Kootenays. Obviously the tradition of hospitality has been continued by Laura, also a musician, and she was hosting my wandering grandson, his singing partner, and another young lady, all three of them doing basically songs they had written. They had CDs to prove it, too. Record studios have replaced trading posts from one end of the landscape to the other.
It was a fine evening. Full house, warm night, and the music composed and performed inspired me to come up with a couple of ideas of my own. But also, there were some thing said by the girls about their days in music school that provoked my teaching instincts, and of course any opportunity to hustle the numbers I take when I can get it. So I struck up a conversation at closing time with the third singer/composer/guitarist. That went quite well, especially as #1 lab rat, sister to the wandering magician and also the impresario, hove to with a hug to vouch for me, and confirmed that the method makes sense to her.
But the young lady had also told us she is studying literature, in the East, and when I asked her to name her favourite authors she came up with a lot of names that have not crossed the generation gap. I shook my head, and shook my head, and no doubt began to look less and less useful to her education. But then she said that she loved Dickens, and said it with genuine enthusiasm. (I think at her age, lost among Camus and Brighton Rock, I had wandered from the man who gave us Scrooge and Tiny Tim.)
Aha, said I, also with enthusiasm, because now we could connect because of my wife's old label for my story-telling intentions.
This had come on quite quickly, long before we were married, probably while Shawn was reading the manuscript pages of the book I had been trying to get back to when she was defending literary symbols. She finished the reading, actually, of the finished draft, as I rowed her around Stanley Park's Lost Lagoon, one sunny afternoon in the spring. And not deliberately, she lost the last two or three pages overboard. I wasn't worried. Once I was on a roll, the words were not that hard to come by. But the friend who had said you had to burn the first million words had said nothing about drowning.
Shawn also said that I was like Winston Churchill. I would have to do a lot before I was published. Neither of us considered that technology would be the one that had to do a lot.
So I told the young lady about my blog, saying she would find literature as well as music under discussion. And some literature itself.
The literature was possible because the old first chapter of Contemplatives, the first of the three sent to Rome, had hit the Web late Sunday afternoon, after a weekend of surprisingly extensive rewrite. There was a glitch in getting the text from the CD - and that had come from a scanner - into this computer, for it would not morph into Blogger text, which is, of course, a delight for the author to behold.
Benedict is about to celebrate World Youth Day in Sydney. I feel as if I've already had my contact with the third generation.

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