Friday, 21 August 2009

The Writer's Life

I'm currently hiding away in Wales with George my dog (see pic from gonzopix; no, it's not snowing, that was last autumn). After my morning's writing we walk along the river and up the cycle path to Caernafon (jolly families breezing past on their bikes, passengers on the steam railway daring to raise their hands in just a tiny little wave...) The castle suddenly rises up in front of you like a child's fort - and then the sound of the fairground in the square, a sort of Eurovision voice: 'Ladies and gentleman please, our ride is about to begin!' You'd expect the square to be pedestrianised, but in fact cars -I mean REAL cars cutting through town - weave in between the fairground rides. The locals all hang about outside the bank waiting to see if a tourist gets hit.

On the way home George pauses at exactly the same spot, climbs onto the wall and looks down at the river. He sees something we don't see; and also dogs are creatures of habit, just like the Writer, who is hard at work on The Institute which is turning out to be - crikey - a novel. By the time I get back I'm covered with scratches, my clothes are torn, my hands numbed by nettles. What kind of hard wiring makes me do this? I can't stop myself. I'd risk my life for blackberries - and they're not that great, not as if they were raspberries. I think it's some kind of primate behaviour, like certain sorts of grooming habits; lets not get into details. Oh but they are irresistible, glowing in the hedges like jewels....

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Storm over Dollarton

The Malcolm Lowry Centenary conference is almost a month ago now. There were three other Brits there (not counting RICHARD J LANE of Vancouver Island University), outnumbered by the French who seem more likely to have studied Lowry than most UK scholars. Apparently there was a French writers’ conference about him last year. On the last night, a yellow school bus drove us to Dollarton, where Lowry once lived in a ramshackle hut by the shore. That week had been hot and dry, but the rain was falling as we set off and by the time we crossed into North Vancouver the sky was sulphurous, and a great fork of lightening hit the towers of the city. We got there, sat in the bus listening to the rain for a few seconds and then we all got out. We were Lowry nuts. We were geeks. (Even the Lacanians were basically geeks.) We were the Malcolm Lowry Fan Club and nothing was going to stop us wandering through the forest in a storm straight out of Under the Volcano.

Thanks to Miguel Mota for the little ipods playing us sounds and memories from Lowry’s time at Dollarton, and for the mescal we drank as we listened to the passage from ‘The Forest Path to the Spring’:

‘…and the rain itself was water from the sea, as my wife first taught me, raised to heaven by the sun, transformed into clouds, and falling again into the sea. While within the inlet itself the tides and currents in that sea returned, became remote, and becoming remote, like that which is called the Tao, returned again as we ourselves had done.’ has lots of Lowry material and links to more. The Book Club at the New Yorker has been reading Under the Volcano during August, and there are some great stories from old and new converts to the experience on The Book Club : The New Yorker.