Monday, December 05, 2005

My day off

December was ushered in with a downpour. Our backyard now saturated, transformed into a marsh, and a small gulley run rough with water. Rain fell in sheets, straight down. I dashed outside and I buckled the kids into the van then taxied them off to their respective schools. First, Aidan was dropped off at daycare, then Owen to the Senior Primary and then Harry to his junior primary. I was sufficiently drenched by the time I returned from my early morning excursion. The cuffs on my tracksuit dripped onto the kitched floor, my waterlogged jacket soaked the entryway carpet. I turned on the kettle. Today I had no other commitments, other than sitting at home all morning. No kids, no classes, no housework was on my agenda. I turned off the computer, steeped some Chai tea and threw a quilt over my shoulders and leaned back into the soft cushions of my sofa. I was going to spend the morning reading a book that I have been itching to read for months: Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Immediately I was transfixed by her tale. The gloom outside was a source of comfort. The windows were smeared with the beating rain, the gloom of the thick cloud cover filtered the light – it was not quite day or night. The greys, slates, browns and ochres of that December morning muted and closed in around me. The world seemed altogether small and manageable. The moodiness the weather cast on the world outside seemed impervious to my delight that morning. In fact, the weather seemed the most appropriate backdrop. I consumed the first couple chapters, stopping only to gaze out the window and drink in the grey gouache that stretched all the way to the coinferous horizon. Having only the morning, seemed only but a tease, a tempting taste. Greedily I yearned for an entire entire weekend to do nothing but read and occupy myself with the exploits of the curious Mr. Norrell (for I have not yet met the aquaintance of the distinguised Jonathan Strange). For a few minutes I was positively wrought with jealousy that Susanna Clarke had the opportunity and skill to craft such lore. I found my mind wandering. What did she look like? What sort of room did she wish to spend her hours drafting and crafting this work? Did she prefer to write after breakfast or well into the evening? Did she find herself waking up in the middle of the night to furiously purge the inpiration that filled her dreams? I also imagined her sitting with other well-bred writers and thinkers, cajoling and scrutinizing recent publications. I can sense an air of pretension. But for a moment I am forgiving of such affectations. For this is my morning off and I am thoroughly enjoying my book.

My morning, you can well imagine, slipped by and soon, the time came to pick up the children and resume my current responsibities. As I left, the thick dark clouds were drifting eastward and exposed the glare of the midday sun. The thick warmth, the curtains that had been drawn on the world earlier, now open and revealed the world once again. Upon my return, I did a bit of cursory research on Clarke. The last segment of her interview caught my attention:

Is there any particular ritual involved in your writing process (favourite pen, lucky charm, south-facing window)?
I can write most places. I particularly like writing on trains. Being between places is quite liberating and looking out of the window, watching a procession of landscapes and random-ish objects is very good for stories. I like darkened rooms too — and lamplight — and the sound of rain. On sunny afternoons I’ve been known to draw the curtains, switch on the light and play a CD of rain falling. It creates a sort of quiet, private world which helps writing sometimes.

How did I know that Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was written especially for a rainy day?


hotboy said...

Sounds great to find a good book! I haven't done much reading this year, but it's such a joy when it's good! Hotboy

MC Etcher said...

Very cool! I want to read this book now.

robmcj said...

A cup of chai! I may just go and make one now, it's stiflingly hot and humid here. Thanks for the idea Heather.

Susan said...

I am SO VERY HAPPY that you have started Jonathan Strange! I just finished it and I was truly sad to see the last page come.

Did you know that there is a film in the works?

I may have to read it again, just so I can talk with you about it . . .