Monday, August 22, 2005

Back Home (Alas)

A 4-day sojourn in the South of France baked out the rest of my notions of keeping up with the cyberworld while abroad. I realized that I had to choose between living my life or blogging about it, as I need too much sleep to do both. So over the next few days I'll do a more-or-less leisurely recap of my trip, with the aid of the more-or-less copious notes I took in a battered Spell-Write Steno Book.

Going back to my lunch with Howard Jacobson on my first day in London...he shared some sage advice he'd gotten from Paul Theroux years ago. Namely, when traveling to write one hour at the end of every day; e.g., "I went here, I went there, I saw this person, heard that, etc." Jacobson said, "You'll think it's inconsequential and banal, but when you go back to it later, that's the real stuff. Six months, a year later, you won't remember a turn of phrase or a little something you saw, but it will be in your notes." He said that he used that method to good effect for his 1988 Australian travelogue, In the Land of Oz.

I was all set to do just as I was told, but with all the running around I was doing, I fell into bed every night too exhausted to compose my thoughts & pick up a pen. However, I made sure to take notes as I walked and rode around, and wrote at greater length while on planes & trains. (I was on a lot of trains.) In re-reading my notes the other day, I saw that I'd already forgotten some of the telling details I'd jotted down, so I'm glad I heeded the masters.

Naturally our lunchtime conversation turned to publishing & the business in UK vs US. Jacobson said that in the UK, your publisher takes you on for life. "They publish your next book even if they don't like it." (Is that charming, or what?) That's changing, however, and the Brit publishers are becoming more like the Americans. Well into lunch, he confessed that after writing for two years, he'd printed out his just-completed new novel for the first time the other day. His new wife (#3 for those keeping track) will be the first person to see it. He said it's his angriest novel yet, and very Jewish. Jacobson is a Big Deal in Britain--an awed-looking young man expressed admiration of his writing as we were on our way to lunch--but isn't well-known in the US. One reason for that, he observed, is that American publishers want an "English" novel, not a Jewish one, from an English writer; American writers already "did" the Jews. We'll see what happens with this one...

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