Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The thing about writing is ...

... it ain't never over. The more you learn about something, the more you discover there is to learn (the more ignorant you feel--the more inadequate), and so you read and travel and write some more and learn some more and feel more ignorant and ...

It can be endless.

Back in May 1995, novelist Russell Banks spoke at Western Reserve Academy about his novel-in-progress, Cloudsplitter, 1998, a novel about abolitionist John Brown. I remember one thing he said very clearly--though I don't remember it verbatim. He said he'd done an enormous amount of research and still saw an enormous (endless!) amount ahead of him, and so he just decided one day: That's IT! I've got to start writing--or I never will!  And so he did, and the novel appeared a couple of years later.

In a much smaller way, I've had the same feeling a number of times--working with Jack London and Edgar Poe. There's just so much. At what point do you say, Okay, that's enough ... And by saying that, are you booking yourself a voyage on the Sea of Error?

I've had the same problem with my Mary Shelley research. I worked ferociously on her story for a decade (beginning in 1997)--read, traveled, corresponded, wrote ...  I couldn't find a publisher right away (I didn't try all that hard), so I set it aside, then decided to publish it myself on Kindle Direct and did so in 2012 (a decision prompted by advancing years and declining health).

Then ... I decided I'd write a memoir about my ten-year pursuit of Mary Shelley, and it was then I waded into (as I should have expected) the flood of research that's occurred since I put that book aside.

Here's a tiny "for instance": I'm at the point in the memoir when Mary Shelley made contact with Frances Wright (1827). I'd done a lot of work on Wright (I thought) back in the day, but then, recently, I found I'd somehow missed a very significant book--Wright's View of Society and Manners in America (originally published in 1821, six years before she corresponded with and met Mary). How could I possibly have missed this book?

So ... I ordered it recently (there's a 1963 edition from the Harvard University Press), and it came today.

And now I know what I'll be doing before I write much more about Wright's relationship with Shelley.

Sigh. And I feel, once again, that devilish mixture of disappointment in myself and great excitement about this new, unknown tributary of the River Shelley that I'm going to get to explore.

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