Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Chair

Sorry for the long break in posting but it takes a lot of effort to come up with, and then remember a topic when you are living the Neil Diamond life style. However, luckily for me, I just managed to keep it together long enough to remember the fascinating tale I am about to relate. This tale begins with me reading a book, not that exciting I know, and it is something that I do a lot of, but this book (which is wonderful so far) is written by an absolutely wonderful author by the name of Stefan Zweig. If you have not read him (and few of the people I know have) you should rush out and buy anything by him you can lay your hands on.  He is fantastic, he writes sentences that are perfection incarnate. Sentences so wonderfully constructed that it makes you want to weep, or to re-read them over and over again aloud so you get their full effect. 

The book's is called 'The Post Office Girl' and it is quite wonderful so far (I have only managed a couple of chapters), but as I was drinking in Herr Zweig's words like fine wine, I noticed a small blip. It is the kind of blip that usually goes unnoticed, and in fact did go unnoticed (or at least I assume it did for it makes no sense otherwise).  It is a simple blip, and one that we all make, but one that shocked me nonetheless. It was an easy error, Zweig was describing the room that his main character and her aged mother live in, and was describing the furniture, and how the family had fallen on hard times and as a result most of the furniture had been sold off to a junk dealer. Easy enough, and very well written, and descriptive, good tone setting literature.  However, it was during this little passage that I noticed the blip. He describes a chair, an old family 'heir loom' that after being in the family for generations, also had to go the way of the junk dealer. Sold off to help pay the food bills, after all, a girl's got to eat you know.  Then suddenly about a page later, the aged mother, upon receiving some shocking news, falls into a faint. And here lies the rub, where does she land BUT INTO THE CHAIR. The same chair that a page or so ago had been consigned to the junk dealer's second hand shop. There was no mention of it being retrieved from hock, and it was just a simple error on Zweig's part. After all, he was writing wonderful story arcs, what did he care about the mis-mention of a chair from one page to the next? 

Zweig was also writing to pay HIS bills, and I am pretty sure that is a full time occupation, and he probably had several books 'going' at once. I find it hard to READ more than one book at a time, I can't fathom what it must be like to write more than one at a time. I am sure that he didn't notice the slip, and his editor should have caught it, and I doubt I am the first reader to see it as well, but there it is for all the world to see. This is not a criticism of him in anyway, in fact, it is a celebration of his art. It made me very happy to find that mistake, because it made me realize (as an very untalented 'writer') that even fucking geniuses make mistakes. Zweig took his place on my hero podium on his assigned day, and this little blip only makes him more heroic.  As a 'writer' who has been told a couple of times lately that he has talent, but who is full of self-doubt to the point of disbelieve, finding this blip was a godsend. It showed me that sometimes even the best of the best make mistakes, and even with all the editing in the world the mistake is still there.

I have a tendency to put my hero's on higher pedestals that they 'deserve', and I tend to measure myself against them, and being hard on myself, I find that in that measuring I come up very, very, short by comparison. It is a flaw (amongst many) in my character, and I realize it, but have difficulty in repairing it. However, this little 'magic moment' has restored (if that is the right word) a small modicum of self-believe. And self-believe is important it is one of the few things that (in theory at least) the world can't take (or give for that matter) away from you. It is the believe in your 'self' that should fuel your battle against the world. The 'war' we wage each and every day against the world that sometimes seem bent upon our destruction. It is one of the few weapons we possess that allows us to fight off the hordes of people who wish to annihilate us. It is something that is precious beyond price, and something that you should never, ever give up to another living soul. Keep that self-believe, wrap it around you like a cloak of invincibility, and hold on to it like grim death. 

Of course, Zweig is (and will always remain) streets ahead of me in the writing 'race', but I can take some comfort in the fact that he was, in spite of his massive talent, not perfect. Not that he claimed to be, his perfection is just me projecting onto him my wide eyed amazement at his ability to turn a phrase. That amazement remain undiminished despite this little blip in his writing. I am certainly not going to stop reading him, and will probably read even more of his writings, because now that I know he isn't perfect it makes him even more readable, and in many, many ways more human. 

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