"Oh noooooooo!" wailed B.A. when he got to one rather awful misfortune that befell poor John.
I felt vindicated because this atrocity solved the problem of how the story would end. The matter had been troubling me. Very often when I write a story, I know how it begins, and I vaguely know how it should end, and the challenge is to travel from A to Z at the right speed, keeping the reader interested with snappy dialogue, remembering to describe the scenery and providing a few surprises along the way. On this occasion, however, I was stuck, so when the solution came to me, I gaped in horror, but I grabbed it anyway.
However, the problem is that the ending is perhaps a bit too rapid, so I will have to ponder that as I type out my second draft. (As a solution to novelist's block, I have been writing my stories by hand in a very beautiful and expensive notebook.) Naturally I was disappointed to hear that I have more work to do, and B.A. wished I had other writers around with whom to discuss my stuff. However the first (and last) writers' circle I went to was dominated by militant atheists and the severely mentally ill. Published writers had fled it before, I was told by a wistful man who sincerely hoped I wouldn't. But of course I did, although not before I got some useful literary feedback from the group, including the militant atheists (although not from the severely mentally ill).
What's the Edinburgh Catholic writer to do? Oh, I know. I will send my stuff to Fiorella de Maria! Fiorella and I are two of the Ignatius Press authors who live in the UK, and we are on friendly terms.. Another Ignatius Press author in the UK is Piers Paul Read, who was a friend of Graham Greene, but I haven't met him, and I fear that tracking him down would be taking a liberty, which in the UK is a serious no-no. Of course, I thought writing a fan letter to the then-living Muriel Spark would be taking a liberty, and now that I am a writer myself, I know that nothing cheers up a poor old scribe like a fan letter, so I wish I had written it. Perhaps I should write to PPR anyway, although just to tell him how much I loved Knights of the Cross.
In dance news, my new swing-dancing shoes have arrived. They look like this:
|And a one and a two and a huppety huppety huppety hup!|
I am very much looking forward to giving them a trial run this evening. And this reminds me that last week two of the Cool Boys gave me helpful advice. They did it in the polite way, too, which is first to ask "Do you mind if I give you some advice?" Giving unwanted advice is bad manners in the swing-dancing community, and it really ought not to be done to poor newbies who are very likely already feeling incredibly self-conscious. And, indeed, being told I have room to improve by the men I am dancing with is still a bit painful. However, no pain, no gain, so I say "Yes, please" and listen intently to what Mr Have Been Doing This for Three Plus Years has to say.
And in film news, I saw Wajda's Man of Iron (Człowiek z żelaza) last week, and Wajda's The Wedding (Wesele) yesterday at Edinburgh's Filmhouse. I have seen Man of Iron before, and once again I was impressed by what a mesmerizing actor Krystyna Janda is. The Wedding was entirely new to me, except for the first conversation between the rich farmer and the journalist, which I slowly and painfully read in the original play by Stanislaw Wyspiański. The Wedding was written in 1900/1, and as Wajda's version, anyway, is incredibly surreal, I was depressingly reminded of my own stubborn allegiance, when I was writing and directing plays, to the mid-19th century.
For me the playwright of playwrights was Shaw, and when I had the opportunity to direct Synge's Playboy of the Western World, I cared more about making it look like the original than about anything else. The set was a marvel of authenticity. The actors all faked Irish accents, some less successfully than others, and it never once occurred to me to set it in, you know, 1990s Toronto. I would kick myself heartily were it not for the fact that my Christie was absolutely brilliant, and when years later I bumped into him in the street, he thanked me profusely and told me he had played the role again in Little Theatre.
Now that I think about it, when I was in my early 20s, I absolutely adored the mid-19th century, and would have given anything to have lived in it. I worshiped at the altar of William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and took university classes in 19th century drama and would happily have gone to class dressed in the fashions of 1890. Since then I have moved on to the early 20th century, and rather enjoy Surrealism as it was before the Second World War. After the Second World War, everything was rubbish except Christian Dior, novels and jazz. And naturally western civilization collapsed in 1963 although, as in Christian monasteries after 476, it is preserved here and there.
Back to Wesele. As the whole play/film is set at the wedding of a city gent (a poet) and a peasant girl in 1900, I was under the impression that for once I was seeing a Famous Polish Film in which everyone was happy. However, once the men get tired of drinking, dancing, shouting, fighting, flirting with the ladies and making snide remarks to the Jews, they started feeling bad about not having their own country, being under the thumbs of the Prussians, the Austrians and the Russians.
The city gents sit around feeling sorry for themselves whereas the peasants are all for getting out the scythes and whacking the oppressors with them. There is a wonderfully impressive scene of a ghostly Polish peasant army--all in their red and white peasant coats--carrying matching scythes. And I felt terribly cynical because I know, as Wyspiański could not, that Poland got its freedom thanks not to scythe-wielding peasants but to the First World War and Woodrow Wilson. However, I conceded, they managed to keep it in 1920 by defeating the Soviets at the Battle of Warsaw, which was almost the same thing. And how weird it was to think, I thought, that the Miracle of the Wisław happened just 20 years after the fictional wedding depicted on the screen.
But most of all I thought about how much I could have learned from Wyspiański and Wajda when I was a young wannabe playwright, adapting Little Women for the stage, etc. Oh well, it's never too late; one can keep on learning and improving until one is dead.