Last week, I put out a 1500-word piece written by me. A dozen young and exceptional folks peered into the quarters of my creation and shook their heads sideways, which as you know is bad news in Europe. The thing moved back and forth. It could have had a few people less. A sentence stumbled. I gathered up the mess and brought it to my flat and looked over it and turned and smiled wickedly into the cold and gloom outside my window. "Henceforth, anything I write shall be written only for me, to be understood by none but me," I told myself, and went to bed delighted at the notion and woke up laughing in the morning—most unusual, and if my wife were around she'd have worried for something to douse me with. A creation that none but the creator may comprehend has been performed only once ever, by the Creator of creators, and who may dare to rise to His bar? After a fortifying breakfast I sobered up and opened a book on the craft. I'm reading it still, and, in a pause between chapters, this post.
How do I spend time in this small town, on this campus hemmed into itself by this gathering cold? By looking to Sedaris, for how he lived it up while in Paris. He didn't go the Notre Dame. He didn't haunt the Closerie des Lilas or the Café des Flores or any of the places where Hemingway and Joyce and the others drank and where Hemingway famously wrote. Nor did Sedaris go to the cemeteries, or down into the sprawling Paris underground where there are the greater remains of the Parisian dead, or Jazz at the Le Caveau de la Huchette. Sedaris merely went to the movies, enjoying the experience, he says, of watching them with the more bearable European audience. On my part, last week I watched Anna Karenina on the campus. And felt happy that Karenin, the husband, is bearable in this very differently conceptualised version. The next two days I went to About Elly, and To Rome with Love. Woody Allen's film has flashes of his brilliance, and I laughed when the man was himself on screen, but I saw that even the great Woody can let slip a poor creation. I nodded sideways leaving the Gulbenkian, the on-campus theatre, but I thought immediately of Midnight in Paris and stayed a fan. As regards About Elly, I decided that I must cultivate Asghar Farhadi, but who struck me more was Golshifteh Farahani, of whom I'd known nothing until this film.
I'm a regular at the Tuesday readings at the university, to which the big writers come. Last week it was Iain Sinclair, and I was ten feet from him, and not believing it. When time came to ask questions, to even speak with the great man in the full but small hall, I put the golden moment behind me and hurried to my flat, clutching a just-bought-and-autographed book, seeking comfort in the book than in the writer of it. Which brings me to the question, what kind of a writer am I going to be?
But there's Sedaris, and there's Me Talk Pretty One Day, the essay for one just like me, ever on my mind these days on this campus. It makes me smile.