Accidentally crying at “Only a Woman.” You liked Billy Joel. I remember that now, but I cry because it’s a beautiful song, any feelings about your attachment to it arrive only afterwards as happenstance.
I was researching for the story today and came across the most remarkable thing. I wanted more information about London in 1913, and there is a book called London, 1913. Written by a woman in 1914, the wife of a writer who wrote the Blue Lagoon (I say this as if Henry de Vere Stacpoole is square at the center of your radar.) Unfortunately, I’ve gotten far enough into it to realize it is a nasty thing when played against my modern sensibilities. You wouldn’t know it at first, a Gatsbian saga of some remarkable heiress with zero opinions on anything wandering around a city of men (and narrators) who have more than enough opinions to suffice. But here and there is the disgusting racism with regard to South Africa, and now, references to “heeshees” in the form of women who dress enough like men to cause confusion. The proper functions of the genders are now being discussed. And they’re spoken around the protagonist so that she can allow all sorts of things to be trotted out in the course of conversation and she seems to be entirely unmoved by anything. Everybody’s just unlikeable as hell.
I wonder if this is why it appears to have been consigned to the dustbin of literary history – despite being reviewed in the New York Times and receiving a largely positive host of reviews. I’ve determined to finish it, if only to collect some colloquialisms that might add to the feel. I find words that feel altogether new to me and as I read them, I look them up and am shocked at how often they are listed as “now seen as derogatory, offensive, contemptuous.” I want to get the tone right, though I refuse to get some of this nonsense added in. There is an element of anachronism to what I am writing and as I am able, I intend to focus elsewhere.
What is helpful about it, beyond terminology or the feeling of the language (which you can already tell is seeping into this post), is the feel of the time I think I hadn’t gripped the feeling of modernity that in some ways is infused in the book. Taxi-cabs, and dance clubs, and some of the ennui and existential gloom that I would attribute to more of a post-war style, are here. Maybe that’s just London? This is why we research. Comments about how white collar criminals are treated differently than the lower classes seem completely in tune with modern grievances. I think I have it as much more horses and buggies and corsets and the possibility of women having a role in business to be so unlikely as to be suspicious. Much more Dickensian than it probably ought. Which is good. It’s more flexible for the sort of story I want to tell.
I’m writing and learning and it doesn’t feel like work, but it feels…necessary to my soul.
Necessary to the big idea which is necessary to…everything.
Bless this Friday night.