29th March 2013
Attentive members of my reading audience will notice that this blog is actually being written in the future, and with the theme of my writing these days being the wobbly nature of time, this is entirely apt. I don't know how I ever got onto this theme of time, but here I am in the middle of writing a series on it. All my other books (and there have been many - check out my website: www.clairemcdougall.com) have been quite normal with no mind-bending whatsoever. I won't count the explosion of mental patients into the streets of a small west-coast Scotland town as anything but par for the course. This is west coast Scotland, after all. This is the place where all manner of strange readings on reality are commonplace and expected. Between the minds of the inhabitants and the course of the stars reality is made and cemented and never forgotten. That's where I come from, and no wonder I ended up writing fairy stories. It worked for Kenneth Graham (one town over) and his tales of the riverbank.
The reason I am writing in the present under the guise of a future date is that I won't be here in The Rocky Mountains at the projected date being weakly grateful for another snowfall to boost our waning water supply. I will be in New York City being weakly grateful for the kindness of strangers.
All sorts of authors have made their home in New York City, from Arthur Miller to Salinger to Steinbeck (hard to figure, that one) to Edgar Allen Poe. Apparently Poe wrote The Raven on 85th West 3rd Street. I don't suppose there were police cars wailing outside his window, or the rapid fire of automatic weapons in the back alley in those times, but it's hard to look at the apartment block where he lived and think of anything less edgy than Allen Ginsberg or Truman Capote.
When I was a teenager, Kahil Gibran's "The Prophet," was a book I would foist upon people for their birthday or just for the mission of enlightening my friends and relations. I once gave it to the wife of an evangelical minister and long-time acquaintance only to be guilessly surprised that they promptly removed themselves from me - forever. And all because this author thought to think grand thoughts in the deserts of Arabia and enscribed them word by word in the sand. Or did he? No, Kahil Gibran wrote "The Prophet," on West 10th St. in NYC.
Steinbeck wrote The Winter of Our Discontent, on East 72nd Street, and I can see that. Salinger wrote Catcher in the Rye on 57th St. Makes sense. But Dylan Thomas, he of Milkwood and A Child's Christmas in Wales liked to stay on West 23rd St. and died (after one too many whiskies - 18 to be precise) on West 12th St.
I suppose the streets and avenues of New York have a poetry of their own. I suppose plopping oneself down in the midst of the heaving masses inspires a certain poetic je ne sais quoi. Or in German, Ich weiss nicht was (doesn't quite have the same ring.)
It's just that I don't know what that might be, because three days in New York is quite enough for me. As writers and composers, I suppose we all have to find our point of stillness, that Amadeus moment of rolling the billiard balls. For some it must happen in the middle of city chaos. For me, it happens best under low fast-moving skies, on a barnacled boulder buffeted by the sea, on the hill with nothing but nothing rolling back as far as you can see. For me it is the absence of humankind, or what Mark Twain referred to as that "noisome bacillus." I believe he penned that in Greenwich Village on West 10th Street.