Thursday, 5 August 2010

Like a Rolling Stone - Joan Lennon


I'd never read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It's one of those books where you think you know the plot and the characters and everything, but you've never actually sat down with any of them. I'm pretty sure I've never even watched a movie version, being of a delicate persuasion as far as horror goes. (The hard-core aficionados among you are now snorting scornfully. "Call THAT horror?!" you cry. Sorry.) BUT I needed a book to fill a particular length of time before going away - I needed something to read that wasn't any of the pristine, unstarted books I was leaving with but something I wouldn't have to leave behind still only partway through. And so I chose "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde".

And before I'd finished the first chapter I came across the following speech by Mr Richard Enfield, "the well-known man about town". (No, I hadn't heard of him either, but I move in fairly modest circles.) He is talking about asking questions. He doesn't hold with doing that. Too dangerous, he thinks ...

"You start a question, and it's like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others; and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head in his own back garden and the family have to change their name."

And as I read I thought, "That sounds so familiar. That sounds just like my job. That sounds just like writing stories." It really is like that, at least sometimes, isn't it? That sense of avalanching ideas, unexpected heroes, realities lurching into existence and then it being UNTHINKABLE that they should ever not have been. Gravity is as nothing to a story on a roll. You can no more argue with it than you can argue with, say, a sullen teenager.

It does make me a bit nervous about gardening, though.

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3 comments:

catdownunder said...

Asking questions is an art form but rarely appreciated as such.
The first question is perhaps the easiest. It is being able to ask question after question without getting sidetracked that is so difficult.
My day job is also about asking questions!

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Lynda Waterhouse said...

I spend a large part of my writing day asking the question 'what if' and hoping I don't end up with what Adele so aptly described as 'as if's.'
Husband recently returned from visit to Middle Temple Hall and informed me that Chancellor's Window contains the coats of arms of one Josephus Jekyll with a Mr Hyde close by........