I’ve been making the Christmas rum truffles, my kitchen smells of melted chocolate and dark rum. The snow is all but gone in a squally howl of wind and rain. Drew (the neighbour’s cat) arrived soaked to the skin and is now asleep in front of the stove. It’s a good day to be indoors.
I listened to Start the Week while I worked (it’ll be on iplayer till Boxing Day, if you missed it and fancy a listen). I tuned in for Claire Tomalin on Dickens and stayed for the ghosts; Susan Hill had interesting and sound things to say on the subject (is it horribly heretical to admit I’ve never heard of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black? I must acquire a copy and find time to read it. And who was the physicist she admired, who said ghosts are entirely probable within the context of current scientific thinking?*). Canon Giles Fraser seems a delightful chap, but he disappointed me when he turned out to be one of those people, the ones who dismiss all notion of ghosts because they can’t see or feel them.
Ghost-blindness seems to me, to be generally linked to a strongly-developed intellect – which could, of course, mean simply, that very clever people don’t believe in ghosts! – but I don’t think that’s it. I feel the strictly-rational, highly-materialist way of looking at the world, reflects a certain specific mode of wiring in the brain; a mind composed in such a way appears to preclude that sense of the ghostly that others (less mired in the material-cerebral) feel so strongly, and which, far too frequently imo, leads them to label those who do see/smell/hear/sense ghosts and spirits and the things of other dimensions, as delusional.
A tad hubristic, to say the least, and a hard one to argue. How do you describe the colour red to a person blind from birth? How to explain the wonder of Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner, to someone who was born deaf? The ability to sense that which lies beyond the purely material was something our ancestors took – and other animals take – for granted. I think it’s a profound loss, certainly not something to be proud of.
And then Canon Fraser asked, ‘why are there no modern ghost stories? ’ and I sighed, long and hard.
I’m going to be spending Christmas re-writing my own modern ghost story. After two weeks of thinking and reading and making notes and thinking some more, I think I can see where the opening chapters are going wrong. It’s all about the flow, I think, the story takes too long to develop. And I’m going to put back a lot of paragraphs I cut (thinking 130,000 words was already too long for a first novel), all the jokes and little details about other ghosts and Angel’s world – embellishments; they made it long, but I think the story lost a substantial chunk of soul when I took them away.
It’s going to be terribly hard work, but it has to be done, and when it is, I think I’m going to publish it on Kindle. I think I’m done with agents and publishers, at least for the time being.
*It was materials scientist Dr Mark Miodownik.