I write down what I observe in my notebooks. I do this for two reasons. The first is that Writing inculcates habits of precision and carefulness. The second is to preserve whatever knowledge I possess for you, the Sixteenth Person.Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke
So many books are inextricably connected with friendships. I still remember the moment in the 1970s when a friend insisted I read Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis while we were waiting for his Greyhound in a snowstorm. He nearly missed his bus when we made a mad dash for a nearby bookstore. On another occasion I was leaving a friend’s house in Toronto when she handed me a copy of John Crowley’s Little, Big, a book that remains a favorite to this day. A few years ago, my friend Tim passed away. Our friendship was based on words – we never met in the real world, just online. Tim, a writer and instructor of writing during his life, was well read and often recommended authors to me. Here are few, which include some old friends and some yet to meet.
Adolpho Biyo Carares
Robert W. Chambers
Gerard de Nerval
Hugh Walpole: The Best Supernatural
One of the great joys of venturing out as things gradually reopened from the Covid-19 lockdown was the discovery that the nearby used bookstore hadn’t packed it in. I drove there fully expecting to find the windows dark and some kind of sad goodbye in Sharpie block letters taped to the window. Not at all. Sure, there was a sheet of Plex hanging over the cluttered desk, and there was a limit to how many people could be in the store at any given time (surely a gesture of great optimism), but it was open for business, and within 60 seconds I’d found a trade sized copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (lots of luck finding that in a big box book store. All they have is the horribly inadequate mass market edition – trust me, I looked) and this beautiful book of Eugene Atget’s photographs.
I’ve known about Atget for years. I used one of his photographs as a reference for my drawing called Coincidental Misfortune. But this was a happy reunion. The photos of old Paris are sure to inspire my current writing, which is a second world novel that takes place in a crumbling old city – of course it does. The crumbling textures and mysterious windows will surely find their way into my drawings.
In another life, I would have loved to own a second hand bookstore. Maybe once and a while I would even have opened the door to share the treasure.
I am very fortunate to be able to offer all three of my books to date in audiobook format. Late this summer, my collection, Magpie’s Ladder was produced as an audiobook by Encyclopocalypse Publications. It joins The Lost Machine and Necessary Monsters on Audible. If you go to Audible, you can hear a sample of Jake Ruddle’s excellent narration.
I hope you enjoy this look at the endpaper illustration from the print edition from PS Publishing. This particular illustration was reserved for the signed edition.
Everything is made through images. They enter us through all the other senses, as through the eye. An echo (they say) is an image of the voice. All our affections are produced by images of touching. Our whole body is a mirror.The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert, translated by Paul Auster
Last night I was looking around for a place to stream Alex Garland’s new(ish) series Devs in Canada, a strangely difficult thing unless I wanted to signed up for yet another streaming service. I don’t. Casting around for something else to watch, I came across High-Rise, a 2016 film by director Ben Wheatley based on the novel by J. G. Ballard. I have no intention of reviewing the film. If you are interested, Will Self has a good piece on it.
I started reading Ballard in the 1980s when I chanced across a collection called Terminal Beach. Terminal Beach remains my favorite Ballard short story. After that initial discovery, I snapped up all the Ballard I could find, usually editions with beautiful James Marsh covers. It was nice to be reminded of this author last night.
The typescript below is the first page of High-Rise with that frightening first line. I’m always fascinated by pages with an author’s marks. You can see more if you follow the link in the caption. Funnily enough, I read most of High-Rise on the sun-baked roof of a high rise in Toronto overlooking the airport. I am sure J.G would have approved.
I am enjoying Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald. It seems the perfect book for this moment. These essays vary in length and it’s the longer pieces I like best. My favorites so far are Tekels Park and In Her Orbit. Tekels Park reminded me of my own childhood explorations and In Her Orbit, introduced me to Nathalie Cabrol and her fascinating research.
Macdonald’s observations are always interesting and filled with unexpected pieces of information. Did I mention she writes beautifully? The thing I like best about this book is that despite the frequent acknowledgement about the sorry state of our natural world, there is an underlying curiosity and sense that there is still so much to see and learn about. I haven’t read H is for Hawk, but I will soon.
An illustrated edition of my novel Tailor of Echoes will be published sometime in the spring by PS Publishing in the UK. I’m really pleased about this as they did such a great job on my collection Magpie’s Ladder. Over the winter, I will be drawing the illustrations, and I’ll post a few teasers here.
I let this blog rest over the summer while I adjusted to all things Covid along with the rest of the world. But, autumn is almost here, a time when I always feel particularly connected to all things book related. I’ll be posting about my work, my current reads, interesting covers and illustrations and so on. I hope the blog will pick up some new readers along the way.
It’s the nature of writing and publishing that things take forever to happen. Regardless, it’s my intent to update Amnesiac’s Library regularly.
For the past few months I’ve been working on a number of new projects. One in particular has moved ahead of the others, a fantasy novel with the working title of The Tangled Slope. I’m 25,000 words into the first draft, and this week I decided to step back to review, and to structure things a little more. I don’t write with much of a plan in the early stages. I write with images and fragments, which are a little like nascent neurons seeking pathways to something more connected. Like the brain, there is a serious pruning after the first rush.
I’m happy with what I have – or will be, with some tinkering (okay a lot of tinkering), and consequently this project will be the one I pour my efforts into during 2020. My goal is to have a solid first draft by June. By that time, I hope to have some good news about my next-to-be-published novel Tailor of Echoes, and have the next volume of The Darkling Lands available. WRT the latter, as with volume one, volume two will include a short story along with a generous collection of art.