The Bookseller deadline, changes and Beauty.
Frank discussed with me the right timing for publication of A Conscious Englishman and I was happy to accept his advice. Although it might have been just physically possible to publish pre-Christmas, the book would have no chance at all of being listed in The Bookseller, the influential widely read trade magazine and would sink without trace in the bulge.
He aimed for an entry in the November Paperback Fiction Preview section: the deadline for submission was 21st September and it was this that focused our attention on getting at least a provisional blurb.
( It does remain provisional, following a response to this blog among other things.)
I also had to stop myself at last, from making amendments to the first section of the novel. This was surprisingly difficult for me and presumably pretty irritating for Frank though he showed no annoyance.
There were two kinds of late changes: one factual, snippets of new information I picked up from the two society's Journals(ET Fellowship and Friends of the Dymock Poets) and other sources. But I needed to hold on to the fact that mine was an imaginative novel, not a work of non-fiction. I wanted it to be accurate and reliable as far as possible but never swamped in pedantic detail, there simply because I happened to know it. That was quite a tension.
The other change was more subtle. It concerned the overall themes and mood of the novel. There were several influences - writing the blurb and summaries, reading and listening to the inspiring Robert McFarlane, looking at Edna Longley's Annotations, which were not published when I was writing the earlier drafts.
They led to me emphasising, pointing up more confidently, four things:
That Edward Thomas was saved from his depression by his poetry.
That his poetic message is current and relevant: try for a less damaging way of life.
That finality and certainty are deadening, and
That imagery illustrating these themes needed to be a little stronger.
These elements were already there, but rather too tentative. I hope they are not now too heavy-handed; I don't think so.
What does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease,
No man, woman, or child alive could please
Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh
Because I sit and frame an epitaph --
'Here lies all that no one loved of him
And that loved no one.' Then in a trice that whim
Has wearied. But, though I am like a river
At fall of evening while it seems that never
Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while
Cross breezes cut the surface to a file,
This heart, some fraction of me, happily
Floats through the window even now to a tree
Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale,
Not like a pewit that returns to wail
For something it has lost, but like a dove
That slants unswerving to its home and love.
There I find my rest, and through the dusk air
Flies what yet lives in me. Beauty is there.