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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, January 09, 2006

rebuying books

Rain fell heavily in the dark of morning. It was still dark at 8:00 when I went upstairs to munch my granola; I left the blinds down.

After the usual fear and procrastination, I launched on drafting chapter 20. Having reviewed my notes over the past few days, I figured I was mostly ready. Indeed, I'd found that I was inspired by the notes; I didn't realize my story was that good! How nice.

Having fully and finally recovered from the long cough that followed my cold, I decided after lunch to make my first run of 2006 (it had stopped raining). Before heading off I found, to my delight as ever, that the mailman had stuffed not one but two packages that were clearly books that I'd ordered online (abebooks.com). Had to open those before I set off: Communitarianism and Individualism edited by Shlomo Avineri and Avner de-Shalit, part of the Oxford Readings in Politics and Government series; and The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler. This latter I ordered with a wry attitude, since I'd already bought the book back in 1980 or '81, but gave it away a couple of years ago, figuring I'd never read it again. Now I've shucked out another 15 or 20 bucks to get it back (my first copy was also a used book--very unusual for me at the time).

I remember reading The Ghost in the Machine on my breaks as a janitor at Vancouver General Hospital, and being occasionally heckled by fellow janitor Mark, a mocking university grad. "Ah," he'd say, "Koestler!" His tone was laughing and mocking as always, but I got the feeling that he respected a fellow janitor reading philosophy on his breaks. In any case, I found that my mind did not click with Koestler's at the time; he struck me, a judgmental 21-year-old, as a bit lightweight.

It is my inquiry into identity and its basis that prompted me to read the book again (I buy books, of course, rather than merely borrow them from the library, so I can highlight as I read--a crucial part of my process now). I remembered Koestler's introduction of the concept of the "Janus-faced holon", a term intended to represent "dividuals": things that are made up of parts, but are nonetheless also wholes in their own right--such as ourselves. His reference to Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and boundaries and doorways, spurred me as well, since Janus is proving to be an important image for my work.

Well, Art, I'll give you another shot. Maybe I'll get to you forthwith, over afternoon tea. Off I go.

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