The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Exploring Trollope Country: A Progress Report

Just peeking my head up to say, I'm still writing, and have invested in a copy of Michael Sadleir's indispensable Trollope: A Commentary (my old one went missing in a move ten years ago) to help me keep straight who's who, who lives where, and who's Ralph the Heir, anyway?

The manuscript is now just about as long as Michael Cunningham's "The Hours" and is nearing the break part between Part I and Part II. I'm writing that just because I am in something of a state of shock at how it's flowing. No doubt much painful editing and pruning to follow, and much rewriting, and I need to see if I even have something worth a reader's time...but the pleasure in breathing life into a fictional world and its denizens, yes, it's extraordinary.

It doesn't hurt that in playing in Mr. Trollope's sandbox, I am dealing with the work of the writer who is, simply, to my mind the gold standard of character-building. To quote Nathaniel Hawthorne's estimation of Trollope:
It is odd enough that my own individual taste is for quite another class of works than those which I myself am able to write. If I were to meet with such books as mine by another writer, I don't believe I should be able to get through them. Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope? They precisely suit my taste,—solid and substantial, written on the strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale, and just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were being made a show of.
Trollope quotes this estimate in his Autobiography, and comments that "the criticism, whether just or unjust, describes with wonderful accuracy the purport that I have ever had in view in my writing. I have always desired 'to hew out some lump of the earth' and to make men and women walk upon it just as they do walk here among us." (Autobiography, 145).

So, to the extent that writing a sequel to a long-dead author's work is stealing (We-ell, P.D. James might beg to differ), I am stealing from the very best.

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