Woke up from a dream in which a long forgotten short story rose up from its dusty grave and emerged whole and even plausible. Each paragraph was a rope ladder leading up into the irreproachable skies, knotted but easy enough to climb.
Listening to the music and lyrics of Harry Nilsson. A break from listening with intense and sometimes baffled concentration to Arvo Pärt‘s Da Pacem Domine, compositions of such staggering intricacy they give me toothache in my left temple.
One has to earn the right to write, the right to “a voice.” I propagated an old-fashioned apprenticeship. I was a passionate reader from an early age. I studied comparative literature. I wrote about other writers. I translated them, too, from Russian to Croatian. I assembled anthologies. I edited, selected, and collected works of classical writers (Chekhov and Gogol, for example). I edited scholarly editions. I did a bit of literary history, criticism, and theory. I rediscovered some forgotten Russian writers (such as Leonid Dobychin and Konstantin Vaginov) and wrote about them. I think that the notion of a literary work ethic is extremely important, especially today when practically anybody can write, produce, and distribute his or her own work. This work ethic presupposes knowledge and a deep respect toward—and compassion for—your ancestors and contemporaries, toward your trade. It also assumes a deep awareness of what one is doing, why one is doing what one is doing, what the sense of the work is, what it brings to the cultural context, what it brings to the reader, and so on and so forth.
Expecting another major cold front, snowfalls on high ground the day after tomorrow, taking out extra blankets and rugs. I fold up and put away my little white muslin cloth used to hang dripping balls of homemade paneer or grated cucumber for raitas. I look at the sodden garden strewn with broken twigs and piles of dog shit. The towels in the bathroom are damp and if the sun comes out I can put them out to dry properly. We’re going to eat spinach and mushroom lasagna tonight, a lasagna supper two days running because it was very yummy and can’t be wasted. Translate: I made too much.
Oh, this provisional perplexed existence.
And how quickly it is passing, how life itself is press-ganged by time so that I stop worrying about how life is supposed to work or be understood and just notice with alarm how life is getting away from me, the yesterdays flying off with a brisk flap of wings. After hours comparing fonts, formats, cover designs, working out proportions, making notes on image quality (another project), I look up from my desk and noon has come and gone, the morning vanished. The landscape outside is settling into afternoon, the unglam sturdy old oil heater warming the corner of the living room where the dogs sleep. Up, up, up! They must go out and run about, get some fresh air, drink water, I must eat a slice of seed loaf with cheese or sliced tomatoes. Turning around in the kitchen, bemused by some dialogue my characters have come up with all by themselves, hackneyed and unusable, I see the shadows deepen to blue under trees and it is evening, time to light the fire, put on the kettle, stop work. Answer the phone, reply to emails, chat and settle to supper. And what is unrecorded is unremembered, the day heading off in haste like some acquaintance whose name I can’t think of right now, middle-aged day with a foreign name and a habit of blinking too hard when asked a direct question. So then, that was yesterday, not unlike the yesterday before. And did I work hard enough, did I have fun?