Re-reading, Re- writing, and an Endless Convalescence, by Enid Richemont

Here is my annual garden surprise - the poppy we planted years ago, and which, once it's made its grandiose statement, dies back completely to near-invisibility until the following year. This was how it looked last year, but it doesn't look much different now. The difference is in me, because I can't yet risk walking round to the place where it grows in order to photograph it, due to what feels like a never-ending convalescence from ankle replacement surgery back in February.

I never expected it to take so long to get back to normality. It was major surgery, so I knew the deal - two weeks in bed with a heavy leg cast, followed by six weeks in a much lighter cast, then the dreaded boot, and then, at last, the thrill of being able to walk to the shops. Yes, the website said it would be a year before things would be really approaching that stage, but I didn't take that too seriously. My health was good, I wasn't sedentary, I ate properly, so hey! after the longest three months of my life, things would be looking up, wouldn't they? Well, it's nearly the end of May, we're almost into summer, but no, I still haven't made it to the top of my street.

Catch up on your reading, people said, and for God's sake, write. Reading has, as ever, been rewarding, especially re-reading. I re-read "The God of Small Things", by Arundhati Roy, and it took over my life. I re-read several old Margaret Atwood novels, Ruth Rendell's final thriller with its tragic final line which read like a premonition of her death, and the totally wonderful "Kingdom Come", by Bernice Rubens.

Writing, though, was something else. I had a simple brief from my publisher, to which I responded with no less than four possible scripts (after all, one had to go.) None of them did. I had two lengthy adult novels to read through and edit. Couldn't do it. Still haven't. I think on the hoof. If I'm stuck, I walk, or even swim, both impossibilities. Up the stairs (with difficulties) and down, and across the ramp my family built for me in order to circumvent a steep front doorstep yes, but that's not proper walking.

I was becoming depressed, so got into re-structuring an old a long-published children's novel, "Kachunka!" which has become a bit obsessive. Mrs Kachunka!, the cosmic dinner lady with her combination of ecology, quasi-Buddhism and other-worldly magic, was first published a very long time ago by Walker Books, but yes, you've guessed it, it's been long out of print. It ticks so many current boxes, but I've been told no one will touch it because it's 'been there and done that'.

Well, I've been revisiting the lady who's name sounds like a sneeze. Her name also looks and sounds Russian, which hadn't occurred to me when I first wrote it, so I've changed it to something equally sneezy but more abstract. I've also extended it. Its original ending would have made perfect sense to an adult reader, but might well have baffled a younger one. I went through a similar but much more elaborate and lengthy process writing a screenplay based on an earlier children's novel, and found it fascinating. These characters we invent have so many hidden depths that it's like discovering new things, or a past history, in a close friend you thought you knew, but didn't. I'd love your thoughts on this. And someone, somewhere, must have published a paper on the link between fiction writing and schizophrenia, because these characters are REAL!





 


Comments

Oooh, I do like your reading list: "Reading has, as ever, been rewarding, especially re-reading. I re-read "The God of Small Things", by Arundhati Roy, and it took over my life. I re-read several old Margaret Atwood novels, Ruth Rendell's final thriller with its tragic final line which read like a premonition of her death, and the totally wonderful "Kingdom Come", by Bernice Rubens." Get well soon and writing again!
Umberto Tosi said…
Re-read (and read) Margaret Atwood recently myself. I recommend "Negotiating with the Dead" as the best writer-on-writing - and writers' autobiography - yet. Good advice for all convalescents - and a fine reading list - thanks. I wish you continuing and speedy recovery!
julia jones said…
Well done Enid

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