This will be a ramble. Be warned. It may also be a thinly disguised attempt to get more readers for my short stories.
I note that this month a lot of people have paid out hard cash for copies of my book and then taken the time to tell me that they enjoyed it. Over a much longer period three of my short stories have been available completely free on my website and almost nobody has mentioned reading them. It could of course be a quality issue but I prefer to think it a symptom of the public’s disinterest in the short form. I too prefer to read books in place of short stories, but a short story done right can pack a powerful punch and I occasionally dip into collections, particularly Stephen King’s.
I direct you at the story ‘Locked In’ just because I was poking around my favorite book, Freefall by William Golding, and noticed some resonances that set me thinking. Don’t be misled, ‘Locked In’ is not a deep literary work, it’s a little horror tale – it has almost nothing in common with the work of Nobel laureate Golding. It does circle around locked-in syndrome though. And perhaps Golding whilst sympathizing with a man like Jean-Dominique Bauby who wrote The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, communicating the entire novel by the blinking of one eye, would have appreciated the irony that those sympathizing with Bauby are themselves profoundly locked in, albeit to a lesser degree. We are all locked in, walled inside ourselves with only the blunt weapons of word and gesture with which to batter away at our fellow men.
In Freefall Golding writes:
My darkness reaches out and fumbles at a typewriter with its tongs. Your darkness reaches out with your tongs and grasps a book. There are twenty modes of change, filter and translation between us.
Deep calls out to deep. Our communion (communication) must of needs be imperfect for we are fallen creatures, yet we must of needs make the effort.
I tick. I exist. I am poised eighteen inches over the black rivets you are reading, I am in your place. I am shut in a bone box and trying to fasten myself onto white paper. The rivets join us together and yet, for all the passion, we share nothing but our sense of division.
And that’s the business of writing right there. Whether you’re writing great things about the human condition or spinning out dark little tales to provide momentary distraction. Either way, a rich and vivid inner world wrapped in ideas and plot has got to find its way out of the writer’s head through the medium of these few dozen symbols on the keyboard and into the reader’s mind. It’s a trick that makes the rich man’s getting through the eye of that needle look easy.
Read my shorts. (to paraphrase Bart Simpson).