More thoughts on, The Once & Future King.

This week was our first session discussing White’s novel, which for the sake of brevity, I think I’ll refer to as TOAFK, from here on.  Amongst the various thoughts we had about the reading, an interesting observation was that it was tricky to get hold of a second-hand copy from the usual local suppliers.

One shop said that the book rarely came their way, which led us to speculate about whether most people developed sentimental attachments to theirs.  I still have my first copy, held together with an elastic band, in the drawer with Wuthering Heights which also got read-to-bits.

Why do I keep them? It’s not just sentiment, they’re riddled with notes.  One of these days, when I’ve some spare time, I’ll sit down and see if there’s still any value in those old thoughts.

I don’t write in all of my books, usually only ones I’m studying.  I’m a bit precious about books, not even holding with folding over the corners of the pages – yes, you know who you are…we’ve talked about this.

annotated novelHowever, quite a few of my books have been annotated, because I often buy second hand, and I’m nosy.  I like to see what someone else thought, so given an option, I’ll choose the copy laced with resentment and exclamation marks.  Mostly this happens with old text books, but sometimes I’ll stumble over a note some reader was driven to make in the text of a novel.

Getting back to TOAFK, what I find interesting is that it’s still in publication.  You can buy a paperback or hardback copy, which suggests that it’s still selling well.

I like to think that copies of it are holding their places on a lot of family bookshelves.  Perhaps they are waiting to be re-read, perhaps to be handed on to the next generation.


david turnley  us military in saudi arabia

Photo by David Turnley.  U.S  military in Saudi Arabia



When You Can’t Throw It Away.

DSCF4814I woke, in the middle of last night, with a brilliant idea for this weeks’ blog.  It wasn’t a dream, I was awake for half an hour or more, forming sentences into a coherent stream.  I had it all worked out beautifully.

I keep a notebook on the bedside table for that kind of situation, but last night I ignored it.  The idea was so powerful and logical that I was certain it was securely lodged in my mind.

When I later woke-up properly it was, of course, gone, or almost.  All I could remember was that I had evolved a simple but unique way of describing the way short stories work.

I do remember how chuffed I was with my ability to build such a sturdy argument, but in this cold morning light, I find it impossible to reconstruct any of those unique fragments.  Everything I think of now has definitely been said before.

So instead, I am thinking about the real value of those night-time notes I do make.  It’s true, that I rarely use them directly.  Often they are barely coherent, which may be either a fault of my note-making, or a reflection of the true state of my semi-conscious mind, and even when they do make sense it is generally true to say that they prove less unique and fantastic than I remember them being.

The fact is though, I need them to exist.  I use them as triggers to expand, explore and discard ideas.  I don’t know whether those middle-of-the-night thoughts come from the conscious or subconscious mind, but I do know that even though I always discover that the connections I made then are more obvious than they seemed, they are part of my idea-development process, and knowing what I will not use is often as much use as deciding what is relevent.

It’s possible that if I had written them down, I could have taken a fragment from those ideas and worked it into something more viable.  But because I couldn’t be bothered to reach for my pen and paper I’m haunted by the suspicion that I actually did have an unreproducable eureka moment in the middle of the night.

Could anything be worse?