Q. E. Claire

April 26, 2022


I may be forgiven for repeating here what I have already mentioned elsewhere, namely that Writer must be cautious whilst creeping across the floorboards of years. Indeed, there are many details which excitement conjures and caution conceals. Further, I have yet to decide what form the pages of memory will take. There are many options available. The epistolary format is fashionable at present. Essays are about due a rebirth. Poetry is pure, but prose is purer still. The novel, in fact, may be the finest form of art. It may also be the most difficult to execute. There are many intricacies to consider. What voice does my old pen harbour in its nib? To what depth, I wonder, does my little well run? And to what end do I mean to cast its ink? Have I developed over the years any elements of style, distinctive or otherwise? What should an expert, a team of experts, a concourse of expert analysers, extract from the scribblings of my younger years: from each accidental blotch and incidental serif? The cynical tone is a tiring one, but blithe writing is so often bilge. Common writing is perhaps worse still. And the devices of biography, as everybody knows… Better yet, let us illustrate the issue.

I am not a practised author, but I own all the equipment. My pen I trust and cherish. My dictionary, which remains at my elbow, is tattered yet intact. I have nice old-fashioned paper, rather opaque when held against the window, not like modern paper, which is hardly worth its weight in dust. I am comfortable in my chair: a beautiful mahogany structure with padded back and arms. Of my desk I am also rather fond. It is smooth and polished and sits exactly level. I am neither hungry nor thirsty. I have a little bottle of something aged and sweet, but I am certainly not drunk. I am calm, untroubled, and, in a word, content. Perhaps this is the issue, this word “content”. I have heard it said that happy writers are boring writers, and sad writers are reckless writers. My father, for instance... Should I start with him? Perhaps I should. A little tricky, however, and painful, yes, very painful indeed. I have several pleasant memories of the man, and fathers are of course great sources of inspiration. I recall that period of my life less distinctly today than I did twenty, thirty years ago, that is, before any of the incidents which I mean to chronicle. I recall for instance a birthday — perhaps my tenth. My father was in the advertising business and travelled often. I had expected him for days and thought for certain he must arrive that morning. He did so, bringing with him a wonderful and expensive little pen — this pen, the very same which carves these letters. This should have been a pleasant introduction, and a fitting one: my receiving that pen, my scrawling all the night in old leaflets and telephone books. A little morbid, however, to suit this casual tale of mine, for he was gone next morning, and two weeks later he hanged himself in Paris.

I must question why I struggle so to mark my lovely thick paper with intent. Oh, this? This is little more than exercise, or practice, perhaps — a lexical fling — for these are not real words. These are toy words. These are the inner seam, the back of the tapestry, the early sketches which the artist later burns. I wonder, however, if they might not evolve into something grander? It may seem that I do not know how to start, or that I am unsure where to start. But there are several points, important points, upon which I remain quite decided. Mine will not be a story in the conventional sense. I have few words to spend on plot, and fewer still to offer any characters. Some early teachers of mine used to make claims about my being too essayistic — and these were teachers, good Lord: scholars, luminaries, pedagogical purists! It is silly, of course, to tickle the toes of the past, but I do adore the odd bout of wistfulness.

I must curb the enthusiasm of memory, however. In those days, I was hardly as refined a character as my later life should have suggested. For years, conventional employers had considered my discontinuous education as worthless as I did, and whilst there is still plenty of room among the great libraries of the world, the words of the common must be wonderful indeed if they are to tickle the toes of the public. A strange sense of unrest occupies the brief periods when my pen pauses for ink. Perhaps it is for Ivor, of whom I have not spoken yet. Perhaps it is this view, this window, which has watched for centuries that forest stretch its legs, that river carve its course, that sun rise and recline again. Or perhaps it is only the thought of bread again for supper.