The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Colors of Autumn

I am currently embracing the season of Autumn--always my favorite, in fact--and the pleasures it brings. I've been traveling more than usual, due to new job, and have enjoyed driving through country roads, past incredible vistas with a peculiar, transfiguring autumn sunlight that has an almost supernatural effect on the objects it strikes, just so. There aren't words adequate to describe the quality of the light--pearlescent, weak and yet astonishingly clear--these words come close to capturing it, but, no; they're inadequate.

Maybe this will help: a world normally seen in the hues of oil paints becomes, for a little under an hour, the work of a preternaturally skilled watercolorist.

Some people don't like the fall, with its intimations that winter is near, and the end of the year, an allegorical stand-in for death, will fast be upon us. It stirs my soul--from memories of the new school year, to the scent of burning leaves.

And the "autumnal" feel in novels has always appealed to me, too. Dumas's Inseparables are never more real to me than when divided by time, other alliances and loyalties, and yet still insistently loyal to each other in the long novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne (often published as three separate volumes, the first under the original title, the second as Louise de la Valiere, and the third as The Man in the Iron Mask).

My own first novel, Phineas at Bay, which takes its main characters from Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels, is not particularly autumnal--it's a story of several characters each finding the way home to his or her own best, truest self. The main characters are in middle age, but each has been balked in some way, and is laboring to get through a personal Sargasso Sea. Ultimately, Phineas at Bay is the conclusion to the season of summer, albeit a delayed summer for some of my characters.

Its sequel, which I have just started, is a very different work. It's a story, with roots in real history, of a very talented criminal, of a young barrister's learning his trade, and of the beginning of a life's work. For Phineas Finn, it will be a story of loss, and of consolation.

For the older characters--Trollope's own, mostly, but a few others--autumn has arrived. What to make of that late, last flush of supernal beauty, is the question before them. Because, after all, for everyone, ultimately, winter must follow.

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