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Open wounds

19 May 2006

...And here is another...

T'other day, in a side-post on someone else's journal, I posited the lovely notion that every book is an open wound, and that reviews act like sticking-plaster, to aid the healing process.

I was not, perhaps, entirely serious; it was really meant as another entry in the O-my-god-see-how-we-suffer game, that writers always play to remind themselves and each other and anyone else out there that this is too a real job, just like coalmining and scrubbing floors and all.

On the other hand, there is a legitimate point there, that every novel is an act of autobiography, of self-exposure, which is not entirely unlike ripping off that skin of social disguise that we use to get us through the days, that regular people get to keep on.

And then last night I discovered a couple of reviews on a website not hitherto encountered, of novels I wrote, oh, half a dozen years back; and one of them was lovely, very positive and insightful and all of that, and I really wish I'd seen it earlier; and the other was the opposite, cold and damning, and I really wish I'd never seen it at all. And guess which one it was that lived with me all night, and has lain in my head ever since...?

Where it has me squirming, of course, is that it probes right down under that skin, into the book and thereby into me; and if every novel is an act of autobiography, and if her analysis is right, then - oh, lord, can I really be like that?

I am hopeful that she is simply wrong, that she took against the book and so misread it; that's all interpretation, and there are no certainties there. What is certain is that I want to withdraw my notion as above, that reviews help healing. Clearly the book is still an open wound, even after all these years (see, see how I suffer...); equally clearly, reviews are nasty steel implements used to dig and pluck, to keep them bleeding.

Readers as vampires, anyone, sucking on our lifeblood...? ["Of course I've got a job, I'm a victim, see my wounds...?"]

And so to the Lincoln book festival today, which I am (desperately) hoping will take the taste of Birmingham out of my mouth. Should do; I like Lincoln. And besides, I have a tea-elf there.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2006
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.