Sunday, October 14, 2012

My brilliant unwritten career

The Mystical significance of chess is the title of my first book. It remains completely unpublished, of course, but then again it remains completely unwritten as well; nor do I have any intent of writing it, either. This, I submit, is as good a way as any to avoid the complications and tensions associated with the book publishing industry, and the inevitable tensions that arise betwixt publishers and authors. For years, as a callow university student, I had been gabbing off to all and sundry that one day I would write a book, and I would call it The Mystical significance of chess, simply because I liked the title.

By the time, I remember, I had had a chance to formulate an impression of the typical academic thesis - in which, as Johnson said of Donne, "The most heterogenous ideas are yoked by violence together". A discourse on the influence of microbial bacteria on the works of Charles Dickens would be possible, just as a meditation on the interrelationship between 16th century polyphonic song and the mid-20th century nationalisation of the steam train industry might be something one would encounter. I was greatly impressed with the intellectual heroism of such endeavours - by force of academic discourse alone, aided by the deft rhetorical and intellectual manoeuvres of a valiant academic, there was no end to subjects, however heterogeneous, that could be yoked, with post-structuralist theory, or violence, or any other means that intellectual might choose, together.

Hence my choice of book title. Chess, mysticism, with just the hint of semiotic studies in there as well. The three subjects had nothing to do with one another, hence they were perfect for one another. I don't believe that I wrote a single word of it, though I did formulate numerous plans involving references to chess in Borges, meditations upon infinitely extendable chess boards, and God knows what else.

The next book in my brilliant unwritten career was Reviews of secondhand books. In this unwritten masterpiece, many of my best critical works (also mostly unwritten) would be gathered together. The book would contain something of my love for the fustian, and of the recondite; it would ideally be published itself as a secondhand book (I'm not quite sure how that was to be done). The great advantage of this schemata was that it would allow me to continue idly writing and blogging, as I have always done, with my mixture of comment and poetry and fiction, occasionally passing judgment on whatever scrap of text I felt like.

There have been other unwritten books that I have thought about, from time to time. A tale about people who steal eyelashes and sell them as contraband (don't laugh! it's a good idea); some windy nonsense about the English Civil War (written in a kind of Joan Aiken-ish style). Then there is a fine uncompleted work I have squirreled away in my notebook (I have tonnes of notebooks, as I find they are perfect for squirrelling pieces of uncompleted work away) My Booker Prize Long List Acceptance Speech. This unwritten piece of literary brilliance was unwritten in expectation of my being accepted onto the Booker Prize long list of nominations for another unwritten novel (I didn't even have a title for this one, or indeed a single idea of what it was going to be).

You can hardly get any better than that, but I have; for elsewhere in my works you will find a fine series of Introductions to books that have never been written, written by scholars who have never existed, talking about other people who have never been, and never will be, born.

Casting an eye back over my brilliant literary career, I find that it has a purity of purpose and a singular beauty of style that is second to none, when compared to the works of other writers. I would not hesitate to say that I am one of the most original authors in the world. Sometimes it has been suggested to me that I should actually write and publish a book instead of talking about it. But I wouldn't do that; there is a glorious simplicity in my unwritten works that would only be spoiled if I actually went ahead and published them.


Mindy said...

Brilliant in its simplicity, I suspect you may be the greatest author I will never read.

My plan was to write a book called "Parlour Games for Modern Families" which is actually a title of a non fiction book, but I think you will agree terribly wasted on actual games and in desperate need of a passionate family saga instead. Now if I can ever find a way to distill Charlotte Wood's talents from reading her books I might be in with a chance.

TimT said...

It's a very rewarding career, unwriting books. If only a few more authors could learn the knack, it would be easier for everyone.

I must admit if you did write said book on Parlour Games I might actually be forced to buy and read said book, but until such time I'll go back to non-writing so others can get on with their unreading...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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