I have posted neither blog entry nor new essay (or book review) lately, and there's a good reason for it. Having just spent several weeks preparing a new screenplay to go out for attachments (director, actors) with a production company, I am also halfway through another script that I'd like to finish sometime in September. As with any writing career, completing a project doesn't mean a week or two of leisure, but the pressing need to get on with something new. After all, that project bearing your high hopes--? It may end up going nowhere. It's always good to have something else in the works, and if you're a screenwriter, having at least an additional two or three ideas percolating is a necessity.
I've also committed to reviewing three novels, two of which are to be published in early September. I'd read all of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's works when they were first published in France, and he's one of the few French writers whose books I buy upon publication. His latest two, The Truth About Marie and Running Away, are due to be covered by me for The Nervous Breakdown, and it'll be a pleasure to see them now in English, a whole new reading experience. That's how it is with translations: does the material travel well? Are the subtleties (and Toussaint's work is full of them) somehow lost in the process? I'll soon find out.
I'm also committed to review Beryl Bainbridge's final novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress. This will be a bittersweet project for me. Beryl was the first writer I'd spent time with when we first moved to England, and it was my (unsecured, alas) agreement to interview her for the (alas unpublished) NY Times Book Review that gave me the opportunity to see how she lived and what motivated her to write. Though we'd corresponded for several months before the move, coming to know her was a great opportunity, and it helped me adjust to what was (and I would guess no longer is, all things being American now) a wholly different writing career in the UK.
As readers know from my piece on her at Red Room written the day after Beryl died, her work has always to some degree influenced mine. Her final novel was never finished, and, like Proust with his great novel, she was still dictating it on her deathbed. (Her editor organized her notes to help complete it.)
In anticipation of my article, I'd gone back and reread her first published novel, Harriet Said, and the book that first drew me to Beryl, The Bottle Factory Outing, which, coming before her great historical novels, is the perfect entry into her world. After that I read her books eagerly as they came out, and on one occasion, with Master Georgie, her superb novel set in the Crimean War, twice in a row.
So I look forward to and also somehow dread beginning her last work. Because the rest is silence.
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