Friday, 10 July 2009

Peter Cave's blog

‘Of course, the one thing I ought not to be is short of words,’ thought I – for there were four other authors sitting on my left, each with lots and lots of words, and no doubt they would lend me a few, were I to be short.

At Fulham’s splendid Exclusively Independent event, I am suitably humbled: these others know how to write long works of fiction, whereas my two ‘philosophy puzzle’ books consist of short tales and thoughts and provocations and musings, even answers, over what is right or wrong, whether a tortoise can ever be caught, and if ‘tis better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig (a quotation from John Stuart Mill). In view of the heat, some dissatisfaction was assured – and how (just how!) I regretted having sat on the far right, when the one big fan was situation on the far left. And ‘fan’ in this context is, of course, merely a mechanical apparatus.

Naturally, I explain how each word in my books is a gem – though maybe not the order of words. So, while my fellow authors read out sparkling passages, I meander around some philosophical puzzles. Ophelia Optimist and Penelope Pessimist worry about how to avoid the big brown bear about to chase them.

‘What’s the point of running?’ asks Penelope Pessimist, ‘We cannot outrun the bear.’ ‘No need to do that,’ replies Ophelia Optimist, ‘I just need to outrun you’. And with that, she was off.

Are the looks on the audience’s faces looks of intense thought, or of bafflement, or of just a desire for the wine? Being the last speaker, I bet on the wine. Well, I certainly needed a drink. In fact, I needed a drink so much, that I could not bring myself to try to emulate my fellow authors by reading out even one of the touching paragraphs of mine that I vaguely had in mind.

The audience came up with some interesting questions – all of a practical nature, regarding how to write, or how to find a publisher or an agent. We all lapsed into burbles of misery – except with regard to our own publisher. Tact has its place. Candi offered some wise words concerning approaches. Caroline, Alec and Mike all sounded sensible. My offering seemed merely to be that of: wine can help in one’s writing. And so it was, that the wine came and then a drink with Debbie and Alec and Claire, while others scooted off.

Oh, and what about my touching paragraph? Well, given that the heat of the evening led us to feel a certain pointless about life, I think, maybe the paragraph (or two) is worth giving now. Here they are – from my Can a Robot Be Human?

‘What’s the point?’ Let us remember that there can be no point beyond all points. Points must come to an end just as must explanations.

All the things we value, however rare, however small, that give point or meaning to our lives – the friendships, loves and absurdities; those soundscaped memories entwined with shared passions and glances that magically ensnare and enfold; the intoxications of wines and words, and wayward musings and music, with which we wrestle into misty slumbering nights, our senses revived by sparkling waters, much needed at dawn; the seascapes of wild waves, mysterious moonlights and images and widening skies that stretch the eyes – do indeed all cease to exist; and curiously the most enchanting are oft those
within which we lose ourselves and also cease to be – yet that they, and we, existed at some time remains timelessly true, outside of all time.

For lovers of eternity, that is as good as it gets.

Peter Cave

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