Monday, 5 July 2010
Of scratches and corrections
I've been meaning to post these pictures since last month -- ancient graffiti from the pillars at the entrance to the mausoleum at Bowood -- but tonight seems to be the right moment, as I emerge from what I think -- hope -- might be the last set of corrections to the final proof of my Chanel book. Every book I've ever written has required lengthy revisions, but this one feels by far the most demanding, in part because of the huge weight of research and evidence to be assimilated from various different archives. (At this point, I should admit that my closest friends would doubtless remind me that I felt similarly wrung out during the final corrections of 'Daphne'; but this Chanel biography has the added complications -- and compensations -- of the inclusion of photographs, illustrations, letters, and much else besides). Anyway, you've probably already guessed that there have been a few gloomy nights merging into anxious early mornings when I feel gripped by dread, and worry whether anyone will notice how much concentrated work has gone into this book? And then I wonder, wouldn't it be better if readers didn't notice, if the endless drafts seemed simply to disappear into one seamless, apparently effortless whole? (Probably the latter, though who knows what the critics will think... no, help, am trying not to think about those as darkness falls, otherwise will curl up and shrink into small ball of fright.)
I wonder, also, what it is that compels us to excavate the past; to read between the lines of the testaments of the dead, to try -- and try again -- to catch the echoes of their silenced voices. Why keep following the trail of a ghost?
Not that we necessarily need answers; for it is, after all, the journey that matters most.
Anyway, that probably sounds more downcast than it should; for the evening is a lovely one, and I've just been watering the garden. Its borders are a little past their midsummer best -- the roses were glorious last week, twined with honeysuckle and jasmine -- but still scented and abundant, amidst self-sown valerian and forget-me-nots. Such solace to be had in the small joys of wild green things, after grappling with print manuscripts, with the black and white weight of words.