Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ahh...back to the old head-banging...

After a great deal of work and rework and effort and thought and contemplation and writing and rewriting and re-rewriting...I think I finally may have a decent opening for A65. I'm trying to avoid my usual habit of slamming in a dozen characters in the first 20 pages and focus on Adam and his world...and this is what I came up with, finally...


I did not want to go to Los Angeles. I would have been more than content to remain in London, researching provenance on antiquarian books and manuscripts for the university's library, but I was given little choice in the matter ... and it has completely upended my existence.

I suppose I should begin by saying, my name is Adam Alexander Aloysius Verlain, and books are my life. Have been since the age of four, when I began to hold them and read them for myself. That's not to say my parents never read to me; my father would more often than my mother, but he was a dealer in antiquarian books so shared my affinity for them, while my mother preferred to attend to her physical therapy clients. It worked out well enough, especially for my brothers and sister, none of whom were as enamored of books as myself, so I was labeled father's pet while they were Mum's.

I would say that in the last 26 years, I have read every work of fiction there is, from Thackeray to Dumas to Dickens to James to Hemingway to Grass (in German, which is not as hard to learn as people say) to McInerny (in American, which is only a vague form of English) along with the works of Blake and Chaucer and Dante and Johnson and Plato (in Greek, which is hard to learn). They're wonderful things, books. They carry not only the stories and knowledge printed onto their pages, but also a wealth of history and the countless biographies of those who possessed them over the years ... decades ... eons.

I think that is what caused me to focus on works from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries -- the wish to know not only about the book, itself, but also who her owners were and what worlds she passed through. I once archived a rebound copy of Orlando Furioso in Latin (which is a lovely language in its simplicity) and discovered she had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel not long before the Third Italian War for Independence began in 1866. By whom was unrecorded, but there were indications she was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier. I spent a week trying to confirm it, which cause me some difficulty with my boss, Vincent.

"We've a hundred other books to archive," he'd said, "and you spend five days on this one inconsequential volume?"

Granted, she was a plain-looking volume bound in speckled calf, a bit worn, it's true, yet she was still in fine condition, so I snapped back with, "No book is inconsequential, sir."

Which jolted Vincent into his ramrod posture and brought out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart, so be done with it."

I finished the next day, still unsatisfied. But I took no end of pleasure in doing the actual provenance on her. So to placate Vincent, I immediately began work on a copy of the Erasmus Apophthegmata to soothe his huffy nerves. Got that one done in a day, which is my normal speed. Once I focus on my work, I can build provenance faster than anyone else on the staff. However, it was this focus which led to me being trapped into my journey.


Still not quite there, but I think it begins to set the stage.

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