Scrawls and scrolls.

To London, to wallow in Orwell, bask in Beckett, hangout like Hemingway. Book four Killing Father is in my head but it needs fleshing out, outlining, plotting, structuring. Where book four will take Rooney has still to be established. I know what is going to happen, but I don’t know how or where it will happen; but, as in book three, it needs to be gripping and it must be a departure for Sean and Jackie, something radical, different.

So I’m off to London for some inspiration and to discover the meaning of life. The latter was easy:we are all fascinated by ourselves as a human race, so much so en masse we need to share the same space, look in wonderment at what we have done, achieved... lost.

I work and live in a lovely part of the world but sometimes, as a writer, I have to get in among the populous to draw from the sap of human experience. London is as good a place as any to do that. As readers will know, Rooney likes a drink; well he used to until his health refused to accept his excesses, but he likes the drinking environment, this is why so many of his ‘adventures’ are set in pubs. So pubs are the obvious place to start and where better than the old Dog and Duck in Soho, an Orwellian haunt, perhaps where the inspiration for Animal Farm or 1984 came from. A pint of Amstel and a seat in the snug and I was off in my literal adventure.


The ideas flowed. Not much is said about Rooney’s predilections towards the arts, but somethings says, given his experiences, he would make a good true crime writer: I am away! (more about the Dog and Duck [the Krays?]. Next to the French House, home of the literati. No pints here though, half pints or glasses of wine. I wonder what Rooney would have thought of that in his days on the wagon. A picture of Francis Bacon on the wall gave me the hook I needed, where Sylvia Plath signed and celebrated the contract for The Colossus and Other Poems here and Dylan Thomas lost the first draft of drama Under Milkwood beneath a chair after an all-day bender in the 1950s, where Brendan Behan wrote large portions of The Quare Fellow there.


So to the day after, to the British Library, if only to see John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s actual untidy scrawls which changed the musical and literal world. Close by, however, original notebooks by Emily Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Eric Blair (Orwell) can also be viewed in glass cases. What is encouraging is that these early drafts differ little from our or any writer’s drafts (apart from being written by geniuses of course), full of corrections, edits, typos! But one thing they all start from a single thought, a crazed idea, a desperate need to get something on paper, before it evaporates into the ether and it is lost forever. Some of us turn the ideas into literary masterpieces, some of us do it for fun, and some for a living, but I think very few of us believe our work will change the world but did Orwell, Plath, and McCartney?

Interestingly, there is an Alan Turing institute there and at the entrance is an Enigma machine. It doesn’t appear to differ drastically from an old imperial typewriter, it has a qwerty typewriter keyboard, but also has a set of wheels and an array of holes where small black plugs are inserted by the operators, but through this message could be coded to the extent of 3 million possibilities. Turing invented the Bombe, which deciphered these codes and shortened the Second World War. A literal process (working out what the ‘author’ of the message was saying), which is interesting because much of literature is about unpicking what the author is saying: the story, the message, the meaning. But do we need a Turing to decipher a Dostoevsky? The old texts (cutting and pasting) and an example of one of the first printing presses, highlights how far we have come in technical advances in the production of the word. Add in a look at the Magna Carta and the entry of the Declaration of Arbroath (‘it is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself’), and no more is needed to highlight the importance of the literal word on the human species.




Then to the British Museum, and an interesting link, one of the first ‘libraries’, a set of scrolls set on shelves in order to be selected by the reader, some five thousand years old and an example of an Ogham writing system from 300 AD Ireland and even one of the Lewis chessmen (the bishop) with a book in his hand, presumably a bible. Egyptian scrolls, all with the same purposes, later runes,: getting thoughts, words, feelings down, on stone, papyrus, paper.





I can’t seem to imagine a time in the future when we will wander around the British Library or Museum looking for modern day devices, laptops etc., which produce words on paper. However, the capacity of these incredible machines offer a multitude of opportunities for writers, where everything, including the writing of, the production, marketing, promotion and selling can all be done on one small device. It really is mind blowing, we have really come a long way, but will initial thoughts, such as scribbled by Orwell or McCartney, be replicated on a MacBook (or something else). Will they be placed in a glass case in the British Library? So inspirational a visit it was and a few ideas for book four.

0 views

tom o. keenan