‘Books are like autumn leaves’ my father says. ‘They lie on the ground, and maybe they are beautiful. But they are soon hidden under the layers that come after them.’
There’s a melancholy thought. Books should last – especially the ones we have written ourselves. We spend so much effort on them, we feel they should be forever. They should be like Mansfield Park and Treasure Island, entertaining for generations. But the excitement of launch is quickly lost. The reviewers (if we got any reviews) turn to other books. The chatter is about other things. Have you read this? Not yet. Have you read that? No, I’m sorry - I will try. But This and That will soon be covered in their turn. From time to time someone may tell you how much they’ve enjoyed what you’ve written. Others will remember a scene and frown, thinking – where did I read that? All the while the leaves are falling.
If you take a leaf home and spray it with liquid gold, it will last forever. Is it still a leaf? We do need a few books like Mansfield Park and Treasure Island. These are things we can all share and talk about and watch the re-makes when they come round. But we also want new stories, all the time, more and more and more of them, and mostly we want them to be new versions of the same old themes, only told in new voices and with new twists. Their transience is necessary. If all books lasted forever there would be no room for renewal.
I could never make a leaf. They are complex, delicate things. But they’re being made all the same. It’s the tail end of February now. There’s a fuzz on the alders that wasn’t there a week ago.
Better get writing.