28 Thousand Days (give or take)
Stealing minutes, living in gratitude, and learning from one of the greats.
Happy early holidays from the Telford’s!
More photos to follow next week, with Santa!
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
The Addition of Theme
The Pigeon Tunnel, a documentary about John Le Carré, which premiered at the 50th annual Telluride Film Festival is a must-watch for all fans of thriller books. The docu, by Errol Morris, gets as close as you could imagine anyone getting to with an ex-professional spy. Amongst the interviews I found some truly golden moments. That he talks to his characters, voices them out loud, and that from there, “they tell you who they are, how they dress, how they move.” That they become themselves, emergent from the page, sometimes nothing like he had envisioned. His process is fascinating, how powerfully his early childhood experiences impact his fictional worlds. His themes of betrayal and deceit cement in my mind how vitally fucking important fatherhood, parenthood is, from day one.
Of note, Telluride, CO! An unsuspecting western-American town close to my heart. A funny place for a film festival. I’d have felt more comfortable in spurs and a Stetson than a Film Festival lanyard. But I digress. I travelled there with a friend in 2009, hired a guide and climbed four 14,000 foot peaks in four days. It was a lot of fun. Intense, beautiful camping fun but afterwards I decided that technical climbing, that is with a rope and ice-axe, isn’t for me.
The Honourable Schoolboy lives on my office shelf and is a constant source of inspiration for detailed scene and character work. Le Carré was masterful at his craft, and there remains no better spy novel writer in my opinion, yet. The Hong Kong references in this book remind me of my early days there, of odd encounters and one night in particular at the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) in Central. I aspire to bring that level of detail to my work, though like climbing on a rope over sheer shale slopes, it can be somewhat unnerving at times.
So what of theme? I was taught that theme would find itself in my work, that it exists underneath everything I write and that I would discover it within the pages. Not always true, as it turns out. Some of my writing is straight-up fun, like the passive-aggressive chase scene in The Sequence; I enjoyed conceptualizing and writing it perhaps more than the reader enjoyed reading it. It was my first novel, I didn't care. Now I do, and criticism matters.
Expanding on theme is crucial for the reader, even if they aren’t aware they’re experiencing it. It’s what ties us to story, identifies characters’ internal conflicts, and ultimately suspends disbelief sufficiently to ensnare the reader and give them the experience they went looking for in the book. In False Ignition, and to some degree in book three, I explore how I struggle with the concept of death. How it can be a cruel fate for our species to have such vast self-awareness, and a finite, visibly advancing lifespan.
Happy Seventy-Seventh Birthday Dad!
I wish I could put into words how grateful I am to have you in my life. But I could never have understood what a father’s love looked like until I became one. So strange to look back on my relationship with you from this new perspective. But to some degree Dad, I get it now. Happy Birthday and we will see you soon!
Writing As Catharsis
As G. Downie once said, “catharsis, my arse is, capable of more flush.” Is there no more cathartic enterprise than to express oneself through story? I loved what Le Carré said about this, that authors strive to answer their most difficult internal conflicts through the medium that allows them the most exploration. Hm. It might be naturally occurring in the writing, but to dig deeper into my own internal conflict and assign it to character may be the most powerful therapy available to me. And cheaper!
Attaching Meaning to Character
As an example, my character, Camerica played a supporting role in The Sequence, much like he did in our friendship. I felt a need to write him into Dallas’s world, not solely because of the literal device of having a sidekick but because that had been my experience with my friend. And while the distancing between the two characters was necessary for the plot, it mirrored my personal experience of friendships that ultimately lie at the mercy of convenience.
The snow on the mountain was pretty thin. Man-made combover conditions, a bit like the hair on Trump’s scalp. I busted out the rock skis and blasted a few runs in the sun and in the end had a great time, high on mountain and high up in the mountains, there’s no better place.
The Mountain As Spirituality.
Not gonna lie as I rode up the Blackcomb gondola today into bluebird, snow-capped mountain sunlight (while rocking out to some seriously loud Tool) I was struck with emotion. I tended towards tears but I leaned into it and smiled. Happy. Katie and Declan on a video call with my parents earlier that morning, working steady, figuring out our little family in a confined space. A good life. I welled up briefly but belted out the lyrics to Jambi to regroup. Live Life in Gratitude. Be so happy that everyone around you wants to be as happy as you. Adjustment. I’ll get there, I always do.