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John Kinsella on his novel Morpheus - in the Southerly Blog



dark2John Kinsella

At the age of fifty, I am rereading books I first read when I was in my mid-to-late teens. These are the books I was reading when I wrote my novel Morpheus which, after thirty years and various acts of reconstruction to cover the lacunae of  lost chunks of manuscript, is about to be published.

Reading was the most essential referent in the creation of this 400-page ‘text’, and, in going through copy-edits and then proofs, I thought it would be a self-enlightening process to revisit the works that ‘informed’ my late-teenage writing process. Of course, there were many books, and I certainly don’t have time to revisit them all, but a handful of salient works have been with me over recent weeks.

First, I went back to Beckett and Joyce, but they’ve never been far away anyway. Then I went to Flann O’Brien’sThe Third Policeman. Strangely, and quite tangentially, I’ve also gone to Anthony Burgess’s ‘sweeping’ and ‘parodic’ novel (problematical in so many ways) of the twentieth century, Earthly Powers.

Earthly Powers has particularly surprised me with both its desire to mock-shock (there’s a coinage!) and the deep conservatism that lurks at its essence. I am fascinated by ‘lurking’ in texts, and this book lurks in ways it doesn’t seem to know it’s lurking, while making much mileage out of a lurking in the ‘seamy side’. Which ‘side’is Burgess on?… Are we supposed to ask this? Well, it’s not hard to work out (then as a eighteen-year-old and now as a fifty-year-old!). Though his protagonist in this fictional memoir is homosexual, and the bigotries of the literary and religious world are tracked through him, one can’t help but feel the protagonist-narrator is made use of for a lurking moral superiority (actually, it’s homophobic and racist) — I get the same feeling from Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, which I also read in my late teens.

Reading books thirty years later is likely to bring a change in attitude. But surely the same philosophy and process should apply to reading one’s own writings thirty years later? Surely this is the point where better judgement should come into play and the work be left to its time, as manuscript? Well, I’ve never thought that way. When I read Morpheus, I feel as if I am reading a past self, someone vaguely connected with myself, but connected nonetheless. I am the sum of my past, but I am also separate. I can read the work as by someone else, almost, but here I have been reconstructing lost bits from memory.

Read the whole blog post at Southerly 

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