Yesterday I left my ‘Airy Mess’ for a few minutes to go downstairs because I believed I ought to speak to somebody. The sun was on the garden, laughing people, happy among themselves, passed my gate and I would have tarried in my new surroundings for longer, but once I was away the screen began to call me. Guilt drove me back upstairs. I fell to thinking.
We (I, at any rate) live somewhere else than the crowd. We walk along a ridge (or in a trench, depending upon how depressed we feel) from which we can observe, even shout out from time to time, but never join – never fully be part of – what we see. And it isn’t good to think about that for too long because then it becomes introspective; we start to inhabit our own little world to the exclusion of everything outside. We know that mustn’t happen. If it does, we start writing about ourselves rather than others. We are no longer witnesses.
A part of me wanted to join those laughing people; to go to the pub with them, to watch football for the afternoon, to share jokes….but, you see, I know I wouldn’t enjoy it. I know my little room and its jealous mistress the bright screen would be calling me every minute I spent away from it. My guilt would summon me. Is that sad? I’m sure some would think so.
I believe within my own terms I am happy with it: here’s a serious question, though. That trench, that ridge – is it getting deeper, or higher, than it was? At the sunset of the written word where do we stand among the gamers and the blu-ray addicts and the Kindlers? Are we sufficiently far apart yet to be considered odd, or even subversive?
In an increasingly structured society that seems intent upon returning to Victorian class values, where is our place? Are we gypsies, as we were in ‘Trelawny of the Wells’, not to be trusted with the sons or daughters of gentle-persons? Or are we political minority figures, which is even worse?
I don’t feel like either of these, but I am aware that, in a culture which demands labels, mine is getting bigger. I want to simply write books, with plots that move along, characters that leap from the page: yet I find myself increasingly drawn to political comment, to meaningful statement, when I cannot truly believe that is my role. A couple of weeks ago I found myself re-reading ‘Jude the Obscure’ and feeling an urgent need to write a modern equivalent – is this something others share?