Thursday, 1 January 2009
Notes from an Exhibition - Patrick Gale
The teen novel is still in process but the hunger for something more substantial took hold. Patrick Gale is a writer in the ascendency. His book begins slowly. We are allowed to spend time with artist Rachel as she wakes and prepares to paint. It is a pleasant pace, with short moments when the motion quickens. I note the contrast with my own first draft of my first chapter where there is too little time for contemplation - this will be addressed.
Back to Notes from an Exhibition, the second chapter moves the pov from Rachel to her husband Anthony and a good number of years earlier at Oxford. The first point of note is ther similarity with the early part of Engleby but the second is the more technical question of the stance of the narrator. H. Porter Abbott in The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative explores the distance of the narrator from the characters (2002:67) and I sense that Gale is closer to Anthony than he was to Rachel. This may well change, but I note it as work in progress at page 18 of the 2008 Harper paperback.
Having spent time with Antony, Patrick Gale passes us on to his son Garfield, or rather not his son; Garfield being the child of the Professor whose brush off may have resulted in Rachel's first suicide attempt. The affect is fascinating. It is like looking through a prism, almost the same view but from different perspectives. The strong Quaker theme is encouraging for someone who wants to include a spiritual element in his writing. There are small hints of Joanna Trollope or even Mary Wesley.
Patrick Gale came to talk to us at the Professional Writing Course at University College Falmouth and was particularly helpful about the process of writing. He passed round the manuscript of his latest novel which showed the hand writing with which he starts and the manuscript alterations which follow. Then came the first typed draft, again with subsequent manuscript amendments. It is a process which demands discipline.
I have already begun to use the leather covered note book my wife, Maggie, gave me for Christmas! It brings to writing a sense that it is special but combined with the fact that it will alter, not least in the process of putting it onto computer.
Patrick spoke of how he wrote Notes on an Exhibition. I had already observed the way point of view moves and I asked him about this. He explained that he had written the book as really a series of short stories all around the heroine Rachel, and he had then placed them in some sort of order. It shines out that the story holds together through the relationship of the characters rather than through any clear thread of plot.
It is refreshing and inspiring.