The Origins of Stuff
One of the books we're really looking forward to publishing this year is Stuff by novelist Charlie Hill. Here, Charlie gives an insight into how the story came to be written.
I started reading Samuel Beckett's novel Molloy because I never really went to school and I have a chip on my shoulder about being badly read. It didn't take long before I was in love with the thing. Not only that but inspired too.
Early in the piece Beckett writes:
And once again I am I will not say alone, no, that's not like me, but, how shall I say, I don't know, restored to myself, no, I never left myself, free, yes, I don't know what that means but it's the word I mean to use, free to do what, to do nothing, to know, but what, the laws of the mind perhaps, of my mind, that for example water rises in proportion as it drowns you and you would do better, at least no worse, to obliterate texts than to blacken margins, to fill in the holes of words till all is blank and flat and the whole ghastly business looks like what it is, senseless, speechless, issueless misery.
Some sentence, I'm sure you will agree. But aside from its beauty — its suppleness, its tensile strength — I was drawn to its most obvious sentiment too. For a while, I had been wrestling with an idea. I wanted to write a celebration of the bathetic, a story that began brimful of energy, went on its way for a bit and then just petered out. If nothing else, it would be a life-like tale. But now, reading Molloy, I realised there was more I could do with it: I could write the story in such a way that the words I used — the text itself — mirrored this dynamic. Even as I wrote them I would fill in the holes of words, expose their limitations, use them to reject the very idea of meaning — their purpose — and champion instead the senselessness, the flatness, the ghastliness of the business.
You might think that writing a story about (amongst other things) the meaninglessness of stories, is a little strange. And you'd be right, of course. But there was something else in Beckett's words that suggested the process was a valid one. His narrator sees that there are words enough already, enough to drown us. He is 'free' (whatever that means) to do what he wants and he understands the appeal of the obliteration of texts. Yet still he writes. In addition to being meaningless then, writing is also — in one context at least — necessary.
My short story became Stuff. And I should probably say if all this makes it sound a bit dry, I'd like to think it isn't. I have fun with my writing. Furthermore, I've never been one for blackening margins in the pursuit of ideas, however elusive they may be. I prefer, if I can, to do my exploring on the page. And if you are going to do this — and take people with you on your travels — the words need to be good to read.
Charlie Hill is the author of the novels The Space Between Things and Books, as well as short stories and poetry. Stuff will be coming out in the autumn.