Saturday, July 19, 2008

THE TRICK OF IT by Michael Frayn

Well, I've just finished Michael Frayn's THE TRICK OF IT. As Ian McEwan said, it is about the creative process - but not in the way I thought it would be. It is not a homage, but a recognition of a sort of mania. It is incredibly moving and I feel a little numbed by it; I think because I identified with it quite a lot, and it confirms what I've learnt over the past few years in this writing business.

Like the narrator in this short book I used to think there was 'a trick' to this business of writing fiction; that the rest of the world knew, and that one day, if I worked hard enough at it, I would find it too. But there isn't; and if you think there is, and if you think you've found it then you have lost. All we can do is create alone, and be true to ourselves...I think that is the message. Also we have to be obsessed, and we have to be prepared to lose everything else.

Why do it? What causes us to make such a sacrifice? I think (apart from the fact there is no alternative to someone so possessed) lies on page 115. The narrator (who is married to a novelist and has started to write his own novel too) is in one of the Gulf states and he knocks into someone carrying water. The water falls onto the ground and quickly evaporates.

'In those few minutes under the noonday sun it had lost first its dark gloss and then its dark wetness. It had become nothing but a faintly coastlined whiteness in the whiteness all around. And suddenly I thought that's not just a story about water. That's a story about me. I could disappear off the face of the earth just as easily, and leave as little trace behind.'

Which is, I suppose, why I write books, papers, articles...and this blog. It is not about generating traffic or readers - it is about creating something that will leave more than a trace - a kind of stain to show that I was here.


Blogger jem said...

Michael Frayn is one of those names that crop up again and again and yet I've never read anything by him. But this sounds fantastic. Its always good to read something that confirms why you do what you do. There are enough holes for doubt to seep through in this life, if you can block a few its great.

Sat Jul 19, 11:53:00 am  
Blogger Lee said...

I think I must read this one, though I don't share your desire to leave a trace. For me, the challenges of the writing process are what drive me. My form of sudoku, I suppose you could say.

Sat Jul 19, 03:48:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Jem: I've come across two of his other works - Copenhagen and Spies and enjoyed them both very much.

Lee: ah like a puzzle, I guess. Yes, I can see that.

Sat Jul 19, 04:34:00 pm  
Blogger Rachael King said...

I agree that leaving a trace is strong motivator for writing, and it is also a similar desire that leads some people to have children.

I remember once I lost control of my car going at 100km/hr, and I was thinking 'but I haven't finished my first novel'. Now I think I'd be a bit more concerned about leaving my son without a mother!

I got the car back under control btw.

Sat Jul 19, 08:09:00 pm  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

I have thought about why write too and came to the same conclusion you did. Wanting to leave something of myself behind.

Sat Jul 19, 10:53:00 pm  
Blogger Gordon McCabe said...

I always leave a stain behind to let people know I was there.

Sat Jul 19, 11:17:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ha, that's good about the car, Rachael - and very true about children. They change everything.

Kay: I reckon you've made a wonderful start already!

Ah Gordon, hello again. Very funny...

Sat Jul 19, 11:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that I write in order to be more alive... And that's odd because writing demands that writers take one giant step back from life.

I'll have to think about that some more!

Sun Jul 20, 06:13:00 pm  
Blogger Merc said...

Amen, Clare.

Wed Jul 23, 04:23:00 pm  

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