Monday, February 25, 2008


If you're going to write you have to think about self-censorship. Even though you shelter under the fiction that fiction is just that, you have to write about something, and that something has to be from your own experience, however vicarious, imagined, remixed, plagiarised or fantasised.
Some writers seem to contrive a world in which they have no part except as the incorporeal presence behind the voice on the page — PG Wodehouse, Molière perhaps, though I don't know much about Molière; the parodists and satirists — while others — Howard Jacobson, Javier Marías; the great interpreters of what it is to be human at a certain time — seem to use their own experience, however much transformed.
And so with humble bloggers. I am at the moment working on a short story that I wrote a few years ago, but it needs a lot doing to it. It's fiction, but it has facts in it, for whatever those terms are worth. (Did a certain farmer have three daughters? Yes. Did I go back and meet one of them after fifty years? No.)
By chance I recalled the three beautiful daughters of this farmer on this blog, way back in 2006, and I mentioned that in my teens I had been in love with the middle one. In truth I hardly knew her but… you know how it was when you were young.
So last week, when I was working on the life of fifty years ago on the peninsula at the southern tip of England, an anonymous comment appeared on that post, or rather two in succession.
The first said: Who are you Jago? I am one of the three daughters of the farmer.
The second said: Who are you Jago? I lived at Poltesco.
That's a voice over all those years, from the girl who drove the green Morris van bumping through the dust and stubble with tea and saffron cake for the men building the rick, arriving at just the time I was working on the story. Which of course she knew nothing about; she, and I didn't know which sister she was at the time, had only read the blog post. (Three sisters also figure in the sci-fi version of the Perseus myth I'm trying to write on-line at the moment.)
However the sitemeter soon told me roughly where whichever sister she was lives now, no longer on the southern peninsula where we were all young, and I replied to her by name (though spelt wrong, I now remember). It's the eldest, A (both she and the youngest were gorgeous in their ways) but not her.
A's been back to the blog to find out who I am, and then a couple of times again for a few seconds, without a word, and now she's gone.
And after that slight intrusion from fact, I can get on with the story, which still needs about three hundred words taken out before it's neat and as good as I can get. Leaving behind it in my brain the swirling relics of fact, like litter in the wind around a field of broken statues.

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