It comes down, at last, to one person, alone, sitting before a blank page, a blank screen, a blank canvas, an empty stage --- a person, completely alone, determined to make something in that void, to dredge from the depths of experience, of existence, of very life itself a vision of the world so true, so compelling, so unique as to blind the viewer with its sudden, surprising revelation of unnoticed truth. The first marks go on the page, already aglow with hints of inner vision. And if I can get down in words all I've seen and all I know and all I have finally understood I will have made a book, a book so true, so solid, so sharp, so deadly it will become a stake hammered hard through his black, soulsucking heart! My blazing book will reveal that Godless monster for what he is and in that pure, honest light he will shrivel and decay and become a mere breeze-blown trickle of dust in God's cleansing, innocent dawnlight.
He hasn't taken my talent. The words are a little incoherent but the words are there. The well where I keep my juice still flows, cold and pure and piercingly clear. Those subliminal, subterranean flows collect snatches of subtext, paragraphs of body-language, pointed juxtapositionings of figures in a room, adding insight to subtle insight, clue to unintended tongue-slip, cadence to gesture, until I see, inescapably, what others dare not admit even to themselves is true.
I have glimpsed beneath his mask. Did he grow careless at long last, or was it just the colossal, self-assured indifference of someone who believes he will live forever and, with infinite patience and vast experience will weather any minor, temporary disturbance? Or was it deliberate? Did some old, festering ennui at last long for an end to boring success? I like to think not. I like to think that for all his experience, his deft manipulations, his instinctive awareness, he simply misjudged the depth and tenaciousness of my own native talent and, thinking me no threat, ignored all danger.
It was Eliot, after all, who sought me out. I can still remember that hesitant, apologetic voice answering my hello with just a hint of genuine concern as he said "I didn't wake you, did I?"
And perhaps he did! Just look at how far I have progressed in this, his revelation, his indictment, his obituary. But I assured the strange voice airily that everyone, at whatever hour of day or night, suspected the same from my hello --- and that they were only right before eleven a m.
"Oh good. I am a night person myself, but since that's true I often misjudge the habits of friends. I am delighted to find a kindred soul awake at so late an hour."
The voice was charming, intimately flattering, poised and confident, haughtily generous. He said a mutual friend had asked him to read my novel, and gave him to understand I might need some assistance combatting publishers' indifference to its virtues.
"Yes. CONSENTING ADULTS."
"Oh that's not a novel. It's hardly long enough for a novella! It's not even what the pulp-mags used to refer to as a 'book-length novelette' I'm afraid!"
After a slight pause he said "I took it as part one of a longer work."
"Really? Well, I didn't. What you see is what you get so far as I'm concerned."
Again that pause. "Well then, perhaps I may be able to assist you after all. Would you be free this Wednesday evening, perchance?"
"I have no plans at the moment..."
"Well, Wednesdays a group of friends convene a sort of Literary Circle, to read works in progress and share insights and comments. I can't guarantee you'll hear anything worth your attention, but once it's over we could find ourselves a convenient watering-hole and talk. Would that be convenient?"
I said it would and took down dates and times and addresses. I had been forcing my bloated little story on friends, to take the sting out of sixteen consecutive rejection-slips, and this was the first time anyone who sounded as though he knew what I had been attempting had said he was impressed.
"And when I get there, how will I know you in all that crowd?"
"Oh, you'll know me. And if not, I will certainly know you. Well, till Wednesday then, good evening."
II The Literary Circle
III The Man Himself
IV Habitat Group
V Reach Versus Grasp
VII More of The Same
IX The thing Itself
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