Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Wombat Man

I love taking the dog for a walk at dusk. Bats follow me down the lane, swooping around my head and apparently trying to get my attention. They are delicate little animals, like kits made out of silk and bits of balsa wood, powered by a little clockwork motor. I sometimes wonder if they have been sent out by a reclusive demi-god to tell me something. But what? I can see that they are beautiful. I can see that they are admirable works of engineering. But what are they all about?

Good writing is like that. Failure awaits the writer who sets out knowing exactly what he wants to say. His output does the job and works efficiently. It is conventionally pretty and might turn your head for a while. You might even hail it as a work of genius for a season or two. But in the end it has no charm. You cannot love it.

The writer who sets out with a vague idea and a character to travel with, meanwhile, she can succeed. She has the best chance of getting something up in the air and making it soar forever. It can be a thing of beauty, something you can't take your eyes off. It can possess truth. But it might not be a bat.

It might be a wombat.

I love those wombats. For me, the best kind of novel is one I get to the end of and think, wiping a tear from my eye or calming my beating heart, shit, what was that? I might not know what it was but I know it was something. I know it lives and breathes and has a smell. I know it has slipped some form of truth past my consciousness. It's a truth bomb, waiting to go off at a later date, maybe not even noticed.

Maybe at dusk, taking the dog for a walk along that lane, the wombats swooping around my head.