Tuesday 28 February 2012

The Thingishness of a finished book

"Sometimes ...a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."
Winne the Pooh

Isn't that always true of a book? The finished book never matches up to the Platonic ideal that you had in mind at the start.

I'm close to signing off pdfs for some books that have been an important part of my life for the best part of a year. At the start, the ideas for the books were shiny and bright. Then as they put on layers of plot, characters, voices, style, getting ready to go outside, the shine was dulled. Now they look quite respectably dressed - thanks to an editor who pointed out the odd fraying sleeve and missing button - but they are still not those glittering gods I wanted them to be. But they never are, are they? As soon as you choose one set of words over another, some of the potential is sloughed away.

Perhaps it's inevitable - before you choose the words, characters, plot twists and so on, the image of the book you hold in your head has the advantages conferred by all choices. Then when you shut off some choices, you lose their potential benefits.

 I shall start to think of it the way I think of presents. I love choosing presents for people, finding exactly the right thing. But choosing can be hard - what if I buy A and they would have preferred F? But they never know about F, so they will (I hope) be delighted with A. That's how it should be with books.

Those vampires could have been different, but not necessarily better. Different would still have missed the ideal, and some of the things I really like about them would have been sacrificed in order to get Something Else, and different kind of Thingishness.


1 comment:

  1. Loved the gift-giving analogy. How differently words look when we take a break and return.