Tuesday, November 13, 2012
As a subject for a novella, proscribed time is very powerful. This is the common enough eventuality that you will know exactly how long you have to live. Until the surgeon tells you and you are in a care home or a hospice or you are finally returned to your bed for the last few days, you tend to disregard it. Throughout our lives time is attenuated to the point where it seems infinite on the one hand and crudely finite on the other. You can keep both notions in your consciousness at the same time, sliding from one to the other, almost unwittingly. I would assume that we have evolved a mechanism in our brain which mutes the prospective horror of an eternal blankness to enable us to get on with our daily round.
Given that it is the subject of my current writing – whose working title is also the title of this blog, I wonder what line you might take in constructing a fiction about it. Would you put yourself in the place of a friend who endured such an end to his or her life, documenting sadness and loss, bitterness and rage? Would you make it the subject of a thriller narrative as in Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith and the great film, The American Friend by Wim Wenders, in which a man given weeks to live, is offered a fortune which will take care of his family after his death – IF he commits a murder. Would you focus upon the effects upon his or her children? Would you offer the tantalising bitter-sweet picture of falling in love with no time to go? Deeply psychological treatments can be found in Golding’s novel Pincher Martin and the quite brilliant little film called Incident at Owl Creek or in Becket’s novel Malone Dies. The transition from life to death is one of the two great changes in our lives. It makes for magnetic reading but is a huge challenge to the writer. Like the bad sex awards given to writers who hump their prose to the point where it becomes risible, there should be bad death awards for those who create such a cloying sentimentality that we are asphyxiated in the syrup. The film Love Story comes to mind and the death of Little Nell.
Maybe with that baggage in my mind, Easeful Death is a tale wherein there is no sentimentality, no empathy and very little sympathy. As such it might fall into the category of black humour. But maybe it shouldn’t be put in that box. Maybe it is the best way out for us all!
Eventually it will appear at this portal: