The serious writer is but a story in a story by Finnegan Flawnt

Posted on June 15, 2010


…After having published more than one hundred and fifty stories on his finely wrought and yet incorporeal blog, after having negotiated precious terms of endearment with hundreds of reading and writing strangers and after having created a virtual, almost fleshly creature – more than a character but a creator of characters himself, the serious writer felt the need again to touch something real and be touched by it.

He grazed his chin with the index finger of his left hand while still hovering over the keyboard with all fingers of his right hand and retraced the small dimple that separated the point of his chin from his lower lip and which he had come to think of as one of the centres of his creative powers. Whenever he lost his confidence he put pressure on this spot. He slowly moved his attention away from his face to his pants and to the white napkin stowed in his back pocket for a single purpose: he took the paper towel out, felt its thickness with the same care which he had earlier given to his small facial dent, opened and put it on the table in front of him. He reached for his fountain pen, a burgundy Mont Blanc that had belonged to his mother, whose small fingers the pen had fitted perfectly, underlining her natural grace. The same instrument looked like a lost memory in his hands, which seemed knotty to him and too unwieldy for small tasks that required tact. When he put the pen on the tissue, a rill of ink trickled down the golden nib as if it had a mind of its own and created a minute black lake on the paper so that the serious writer felt forced to turn it over and start afresh. He quickly wrote the word ‘faith’ in capital letters before the ink could inadvertently blotch his canvas once again, sheathed his pen and let the fertile loneliness he knew so well take possession of him so that he could continue to write.

He was aware that none of his previous work meant anything anymore to him though it meant something to someone somewhere, which was a comfort anyways. In the nascent light of a new novel, which had begun to stir inside him like a newborn begotten in an act of poignant paternal love, all his old stories were just that: old stories. Joie de vivre was to be found in things undone, unwritten and unread.

The new novel might begin thus:

Once upon a time there was a cantankerous curmudgeon of a writer who lived his life by one rule only: to calmly move on to the next thing whenever it was time to do so. This man’s best friend was an ancient cetacean from a colony swimming off Capitola whose sorrow was that he loved movies more than anything. Fortunately, the writer had come up with a way for his friend the whale to indulge in its alien obsession with celluloid, which was not any stranger than the man’s preoccupation with mermaids and other magical sea folk.

See, everything flowed nicely: the serious writer could go on scrivening like that for a long time, turning trivial tattle into bewitching tassle and squeezing blood from the banal, like his character, who never died but jumped from story to story growing from a spring seed into a summer tree whose leaves gave shade to the uncanny and the unanswered, taking its water from the deepest depths of the telling well.

But to change water to wine, ‘nice’ wouldn’t do. It was cold comfort where a hot heart was required. To chafe his poetic protrusions, to make words like warm bread rather than to sneeze pleasantries onto the page, the serious writer culled inspiration from:

… his wife’s valiant calves, which held her head high and which helped to ground him when he watched her muscles work their magic on top of a pair of stilettos;

… the indistinguishable chatter from the sidewalk café opposite their apartment, where he imagined street musicians didn’t busk for fear they’d interrupt the permanent conversation which might eventually resolve some issues;

… the buzz of gnats at night before they bit, the feeling vulnerable under air attack, and the peculiar compromise negotiated between insect, skin and soul that echoed other equally ancient deals made with nature;

… all things and relationships that require a year and a day rather than a minute and a half to be understood, crafted, ingested, and committed to one’s flames.

“What’re you writing these days”, said his wife after they went to bed.

“I don’t know yet, my sweet, I’ve only just got the cauldron heated up”, said the serious writer and held out his arm so that she could cuddle up to him.

And then the curtain dropped. And it was good.

Published at 4’33” (week 26, 13 March 2011) — also on iTunes.