Stanley Klepp deceased (6)
By Simon Barget
An interlude, because let’s face it, the story’s a little dull so far, or somewhere along the line, it became so. Not totally without redeeming feature but far from sufficiently engaging. We all knew it, but I’m the only one allowed to say. And the rest can wait while I digest why.
I know it’s been done before so please don’t hate me for what you probably think’s a twitty ruse. It wasn’t a planned coup; if anything I’m ashamed to do this because I feel like I’ve failed. But this is the only way I can continue, and I don’t want to stop now, so if I can appeal to the kinder parts of your nature, then let me do so. You see it suddenly dawned on me that what I’d written was so achingly tedious, tedious to read, and even more tedious to edit, that to carry on in the same vein was just too painful. I’d rarely known such pained moments, moments where I’d been so conscious that I so desperately wanted to do anything other than sit on that chair, gurning and suffocating in my own mental bilge. Moments of being trapped in my mind; a mind, which innumerable times, failed to deliver the right words, the good ideas, the appropriate shades of memory. And then the word is very rarely satisfactory anyway. And even if it is, there’s always a general feeling that the writing could be so much fizzier and more lively, and that if only I had greater mastery of the language that it might well be. My breathing was short and stunted, my temples throbbed to bursting; my attention wandered anywhere and everywhere like smarting huskies. I was absolutely sick of that chronic process of improving and tweaking; chipping away and removing the connection with the original words, which had once upon a time held the original impetus.. And it dawned on me that there’s really only merit in that which is spontaneous and fresh as far as expression is concerned. Or, if not, I realised that I wanted to write with a degree of spontaneity and freshness which seemed to have deserted me in the last couple of chapters. My ‘I’ impulse had become obscured by trivialities. What I wanted, what made me feel content, thrilled, excited and duly invigorated, this was the touchstone, with which I’d lost contact.
What went wrong? It opened with the Kafka Gambit but then in a sort of revenge on the author, he woke up one morning three weeks later, startled to realise that what he thought he’d started quite brilliantly had been monstrously clichéd. Is it better to be aware than unaware? How could he have failed to see it? So unoriginal. And after monitoring titles and first sentences in the local bookshop, I noticed no shortage of novelists keen to ape that Kafkaesque absurdist pall. Perhaps more prevalent amongst the Jews, I don’t know. Anyway, despite the flagrant mimicry, it transpired that the story was rolling along rather nicely, independently of Kafka, and that’s perhaps why I ignored the daylight robbery. Here was how I imagined a story could be, natural and necessary, where a character creates itself and becomes real instead of an artificial botch job by a cackhanded author. It was easy, it was necessary, but gradually it became drudgery. I’m not up to the task, I thought. Is that such a bad thing? Did I have to complete this? Isn’t my duty just to be honest? I don’t know if this is worthy pursuing anymore, yes I’m giving up, but I’ll set out what I’ve done so far. Somehow I want to figure in the story, but I’ve got nothing to do with it. Sometimes these characters really do do what they do (adoodoodoo), sometimes the fiction is realised, but yet when they don’t, you can spot the charade so quickly, it’s shameful. So how can I maintain the pretence? Do I care about the reader? If you could choose am the one writing this. It also became a word count as I had 40,000 words or so in mind for a novella.
And then I thought, well so what does it prove if I produce something after so much mental strain? And I’d rather navel-gaze than struggle on regardless with a stinker. No, I could barely write another word. Then the ever-present overarching suspicion that my mind is not up to the job, the sensation that I was wasting my time and should just give up, whilst the gods sniggered at my earnestness, and my misplaced hope.
But somewhere I had an inkling that I could regain those moments of peace or lucidity or stillness that the writing process has sometimes conferred in the past, beyond all the inherent surface turmoil. And this is how. And so I’m trying to breakthrough this sludge in my own turgid psyche with all its assumptions, blockages, its preponderance to dullness and reach the part inside that’s really trying to be expressed, because that’s really the crux of the story. But I don’t want to just leave it, and I am hoping that this interlude has served its purpose as a refresher. And actually writing this, as in what I’m writing now, is more fun, more true, more liberating than anything I’ve laboured over during the past four weeks.
Hello. This is the real me. As far as I am able to convey myself through these words on this page. I am ad idem with them, I am telling the truth, and what they convey is not imaginary unlike the retelling of events which surrounded the death of Mr Klepp, entirely mythical and without basis; these have a quality of realness that the story could never have. I’m the real face of this narrative construct, the real eyes, ears, mouth, brain and soul, and my name is Simon Barget, and for now I have made myself the focus. I think I’ve been trying to hide myself, but no longer. Not just here but in life. The story: a convoluted and confused attempt to reveal myself but still keep the mask on. Perhaps this unconscious mechanism of showing whilst hiding explains why it has become so difficult to write, since it requires great skill to reveal and disguise at the same time – if it’s even possible. My fingers are tippertappering on this dinky, iconic, unibody Macbook whose slender keys are so barely raised above the surface of the plastic moulding that they require only the deftest of presses to activate the chosen symbol. Effortless. Yes I can already feel this is a huge breakthrough. Fuck the story for the moment. (Having written that particular sentence a few weeks ago and though it strikes me as crass and juvenile now, I won’t delete it because it’s what came out then with some force.) But not all of this is entirely spontaneous as I’m re-reading and re-writing now. That’s ok. I’m going through what I wrote about three weeks ago in that burst of vigour, although now, I’m enjoying the re-reading and editing.
I’m typing with my fingers, hunched over because the harder I concentrate the closer my whole body gets to the screen, my head bows in, but also my shoulders, so that if I were perfectly and intensely concentrated, the upper part of my body would slump into and fuse with it, and I now picture some perverse modern artwork, picture or sculpture, entitled 21st century man moulded Macbook. I’ve had three Ikea mugs of Budgen’s SuperValu freeze-dried whose large and lozenge granules, almost golden are lighter and larger than those of their Nescafé cousin, and the plate of crumbs of the two recently ingested Ryvita Sesame Seed and Oat rests to my left on the dining table that I use for almost everything. I’m 37, I’m dull, I have a cat called Bert. Perhaps that’s all I wanted to say, perhaps all I ever wanted to do through this whole story is be seen, but in a different way to the visibility conferred by normal social interactions. This is the soggy yearning for recognition again. I want to show that I’m real, this is not automatic and spontaneously-generating, this is me arduously laboriously agonising over every word. This is me, my life, my choice now to tap away on this keyboard expostulating to the creative-writing group, trying to avoid condemnation. This is me wasting time. This is me hoping for something that will probably never happen, pretending that I’m something I’m not. This is built into the writing, we know that, but I wanted to emphasise it here because they are features for me. I wonder if I emphasised it whether I could just carry on with this story regardless, unburdened. This is me liberating myself. This is me fearing that I’m not as good as I ever hoped to be. This is me fearing that it would all have happened by now if it was ever going to. This is me thinking, what else? Life.
Perhaps it would have worked if I’d been sufficiently distant from the subject, but perhaps this is an unrealistic desire, since everything that ever comes out of one’s brain is derived from experience so it always ends up involving me. Characters, settings and themes relate firmly to me; they are part of me, even a perfect replica of someone else is filtered through my own experience. These are not random, unattached entities that I picked for the good of literature, but through them, I try my best to convey something meaningful. There seems to be a process of ever more closely approaching what is actually inside as the writing goes on, inching closer to what it is I need to say, and what struck me so baldly is that I wasn’t saying what I needed to say. It obviously needed to evolve into something much closer to me, and that is this. Need to see my own reflection for a bit.