For Borges, the core of reality lay in books; reading books, writing books, talking about books. In a visceral way, he was conscious of continuing a dialogue begun thousands of years before and which he believed would never end.
— Alberto Manguel, With Borges
During the solitary months and years spent writing a book, it can be easy to forget that it will – if you are lucky – live a social life: that your book might enter the imaginations and memories of its readers and thrive there, that your book might be crammed into pockets or backpacks and carried up mountains or to foreign countries, or that your book might be given by one person to another.
— Robert Macfarlane, The Gifts of Reading
This blog has echoed to the sound of silence over the past few months. Yet never has the tapping sound of my keyboard been so furious. A post today by Neil Usher – Ink in the well – prompts a brief return.
Neil has recently completed writing a book. In telling his own story, as is often the way with these things, he manages to tell many other people’s stories too. The lengthy writing process that actually begins long before a word is written. The reading, research, conversations and reflection. The preparation and organisation. Finally, the writing itself.
Like Neil, I too have just finished writing a book. This time as a ghostwriter. It has been a fascinating experience into which I have injected far more of myself than I expected to. The journey started some fourteen months ago with a visit to Copenhagen and time spent with the authors, Chris Shern and Henrik Jeberg.
The intervening months were filled with video calls, independent research and analysis of interviews recorded by Chris and Henrik. Gradually, a structure for a book emerged to which they agreed. There followed a planning period during which I created a ‘live’, constantly evolving, structural document that reflected chapter titles, thematic content, external references, cultural and historical considerations, and interviewees to be covered.
The writing was compressed into a short time frame. Often I found myself writing two chapters a week. As always, writing was a process of discovery. I worked within the loose framework provided by the structural document but gained insights, made discoveries, through the juxtaposition of interviewee stories and references to sociopolitical and cultural trends and ideas.
It was over all too quickly. As has been the case with Neil, I have been left hungering for more. My editorial work and advisory role on other book projects provides some succour, but I am already planning the next book. Most likely an essay collection. So the blog silence may continue, but the writing never stops. Especially as, for me, writing always begins with reading.
The story slows as it picks up details, digresses towards fresh evidence; perspectives multiply as the dread moment nears, as if one of them might divert the course of events at the last instant.
— Brian Dillon, The Great Explosion
Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.
— Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Return of the Vikings will be published in English early in 2018 by the Danish publisher DPF.