Saturday, December 17, 2011

"xxxx and xxxxx---"

Have spent the rest of the evening since my previous post reading Joan Didion's two books of grieving, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights.  Sideways research, as it were, for the review I'm writing for Monday (I had speculated that the relationship between the book I'm reviewing there and its author's previous work of nonfiction might be akin to the asymmetrical pairing of these two books of Didion's, and I think it is probably the case). 

I have not over the course of my life been a great admirer of Didion's writing, but here is a sequence I found entirely arresting (these should be regular indented sentence/paragraphs, with no space in between):
"What we need here is a montage, music over. How she: talked to her father and xxxx and xxxxx---

"xx," he said.

"xxx," she said.

"How she:

"How she did this and why she did that and what the music was when they did x and x and xxx---

"How he, and also she---"

The above are notes I made in 1995 for a novel I published in 1996, The Last Thing He Wanted.  I offer them as a representation of how comfortable I used to be when I wrote, how easily I did it, how little thought I gave to what I was saying until I had already said it.  In fact, in any real sense, what I was doing then was never writing at all: I was doing no more than sketching in a rhythm and letting that rhythm tell me what it was I was saying.  Many of the marks I set down on that page were no more than "xxx," or "xxxx," symbols that meant "copy tk," or "copy to come," but do notice: such symbols were arranged in specific groupings.  A single "x" different from a double "xx," "xxx" from "xxxx."  The number of such symbols had a meaning.  The arrangement was the meaning.

No comments:

Post a Comment