So Murasaki Shikibu, author of the world’s first novel and Sei Shonagon, author of the first surviving blog knew each other and did not get on.
Writing a novel and writing a blog require completely different character traits. One requires a contentedness with solitude, a mind that plays with itself – the other requires a slightly flighty mind that is constantly seeking to engage with others. “If one has to sample each interesting thing that comes along, people are bound to regard one as frivolous.” Murasaki comments, just a touch sourly. Self-restraint comes at a price too, dear lady, and of the two Sei Shonagon is the more modern, the more immediate, the more true.
[True? Real. Authentic. At the end of all our days we will be asked by the Gatekeeper: “What did you do in your life that was true and authentic, that leaves behind a residue of you, the person as you really are, that helps enhance our understanding of what it means to be alive?” – You think he won’t? Or that you won’t ask this of yourself?]
As a novelist starting out, with some trepidation, on the blog trail, I am very aware of this friction. I have long had the belief that “those that talk about it don’t write about it; and those that write about it don’t talk about it.” I have a number of friends who talk great books over a pint or two – but do they go and do the writing? Nope. It requires too much solitude, too much bloody-minded perseverance, or perhaps simply, a different set of character traits. As a book writer myself, my concern is that I may not have enough blather in me to keep readers interested in a continuing blog. There, I’ve said it. I’ve laid my frailties on the line.
Mulling this over, I see the front cover of the book has folded back revealing the name of a previous author, presumably the first owner of this particular book when it was brand new “Catherine Neale August 1976” – 1976? Yes, that was the first year when my own life really began to take off. The year I moved to Cheung Chau island in what was then the British colony of Hong Kong (though they preferred the word ‘territory’ – it seemed less imperial). I lived on that island 25 years, the best, most intense years of my life. That is where I …but I have written about this elsewhere (Wordjazz for Stevie). Let’s just say there was love, birth and death.
So Catherine Neale? Where are you now? There was a time you were so proud of ownership that you put your name on this book – and then, sometime later, it broke loose and went floating on the waves of the second hand book market. Did you downsize? Feel bored? Die? Are you one of the 62 Catherine Neales in the 192 online telephone directory? One of the numerous, but uncountable, Facebook Catherine Neales? With a little perseverance I might very well be able to reach out and close the circle of connectedness. What might I tell you? I am now reading a book you once thought important enough, possessive enough, to put your name on the fly leaf. How significant is that?
Perhaps she is my age, perhaps she is lonely, perhaps our souls are on a karmic journey, perhaps this is how the Gods work?
I am beginning to see the attraction of the blog form – random thoughts and ideas seep through relentlessly.