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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Well. I just wrote most of a post, only to have Mozilla Firefox lock up on me ("invalid page fault"), crash, and lose everything. What a way to return to the blog--strong negative reinforcement. I'll see what I can remember, but I feel frustrated and disappointed.

Even though I have not posted for about 12 days or so, I see from my stat-counter that people have nonetheless been stopping by--both my loyal readers, and the many one-time visitors, who often arrive after searching Google for things like "Pluto conjunct Saturn" or "Save-On Foods" or "outline for a historical novel". Many thanks!

It has been a time of low energy and flattened affect for me, so I have not pursued my commitment to the blog, which for the first year I felt I must write every day, whether I felt like it or not. But I have resumed writing again, not in a joyous way or a depressive way, but in a workmanlike way--maybe sort of like an inmate in a psych ward, heavily medicated and working on a craft. Unshaven, in terry robe (cotton sweats in my case), and full of lithium or chlorpromazine, he works with flattened affect at sculpting some plasticine. Maybe, if he has talent, it's even pretty good.

My reading has continued strongly; I pursue my inquiry into the mystery of identity. Lately, reminded by an illustration in Amit Goswami's The Self-Aware Universe, I pulled down my copy of a book I bought in September 1979, when I was starting university: The Origins and History of Consciousness by the Jungian psychologist Erich Neumann. When I opened the old, well-made Princeton Bollingen paperback, I was struck to find this verse by Goethe as an epigraph:

He whose vision cannot cover
History's three thousand years,
Must in outer darkness hover,
Live within the day's frontiers.

I felt energized and encouraged--maybe like someone stumbling through a dark mine, lost and alone, who finds a directional mark. Yes: I'm trying to get my vision to cover history's three thousand years--and more.

I felt heartened.

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  • I know those verses by heart.

    Wer nicht von dreitausend Jahren,
    Sich Rechenschaft kann geben,
    Bleibt im Dunkel, unerfahren,
    Muß von Tag zu Tage leben.

    Writers, especially published authors with deadlines, often have to take a workmanlike approach to their writing. I've learned that while reading blogs and contributions in writers' forums, yet I have so far not be able to make use of it myself on a regular basis. I still tend to wait for the muse and the mood and both are a bit elusive right now.

    On my better days, I manage my 10-15 minutes freewriting at least, and some of that might end up in a novel because I limit the exercise to my projects. On good days, it will be longer than the allotted time and lead to a usable result. On bad days, well .... I hope things will get better now with spring approaching. Strange enough, I love winter, I love snow and cold, but I'm even more prone to melancholy during that time.

    I should get a print of Dürer's Melancholia to grace my office.

    By Blogger Gabriele C., at April 03, 2006 7:32 PM  

  • Gabriele! You know, I had a thought that if you came by, you would know this quote. Thank you so much for providing the original. Even though my German is weak, I can see that Goethe's verse is much stronger than the feeble English translation. The final line especially, which I understand as "Must live from day to day", is powerful. I note that Viktor Frankl identifies just this--day-to-day living--as one of the symptoms of the modern, meaningless life that leads people to despair, or at least to the psychotherapist.


    By Blogger paulv, at April 03, 2006 9:36 PM  

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