A writer’s story

I met Alan in 2002. I was writing a story on literature courses in London universities, and thought he might help me gather some anecdotes. Alan was a well-known character by then, both inside academia and beyond it, and to my surprise and delight, when I sent him an email describing my interest, he responded positively.

We spent a couple of years emailing each other, and in 2003 we met in London. What followed was a slow-motion romance that went on for the next seven years. Alan didn’t know much about what was happening to my life at that time: I was seeing a wonderful fellow writer called Carl Pugh, and preparing my undergraduate thesis. I told Alan about it, and said I would like to invite him to my graduation in 2010.

He was delighted, but it turned out his relationship with Carl had broken up. One evening, about a year before the graduation ceremony, Alan told me he was moving to Australia. In 2010, I learned from a colleague that Alan was working on a new version of an essay about Joseph Conrad that he had published in 1990, and that he was working on another essay with a title that, to my mind, spoke of his true feelings for me, “Bibliolatry” . In 2011, I learned that Alan was living in Hobart, working at the university, teaching and writing, and that he intended to write to me. He sent me an email of about four paragraphs, saying he would like to send me some more details of his writing career. He was writing stories for magazines, working on a novel. He didn’t want to share much since he didn’t feel like it at the time.

Young Mr. Larousse, Mr. Lenguard, Ms. Rabiot, Mr. Falke Much of the setting, locales and characters are reminiscent of Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare. While I was vaguely aware of the similarities to a classical style story-teller, the sheer breadth of books before me on the shelves and the amount of experience that must have gone into the novel I have just begun reading suddenly shocked me into a sudden recognition of a lifelong affinity for these authors and the writers and novels that inspire them. A proper appreciation of these authors’ works becomes the prerequisite for much of the writing I am writing, yet I confess that I hadn’t thought of them as an influence before; I expected writers to describe a world of my creation as if reading and studying a masterpiece. Much of the time, that is a realistic description of the narrative world created. However, I have occasionally wondered if much of my work would be more rewarding to write if I incorporated some

of the common elements of a literary masterpiece. And as my reaction to the imaginative work on display in the library served to reinforce, I confess that I am starting to wonder whether that is where I am headed.

I have always thought of my mother as a writer. As I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, my mother wrote mystery novels. Her novels – I would describe her genre as crime fiction – were never terribly popular, perhaps the least popular novel series she created and to my recollection, I never read her novels in their entirety. I have always thought of those books as poor imitations of some of the best fiction of the era. I recall seeing the occasional television program which had a sequence where the murderer was tied to a bed or something like that. I was always astonished that she could write a whole novel like that.

A strange thing occurred to me on my way to school this morning: I think that I may have begun to write a novel and I may have started to write the first chapter.

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