To put a brake on Time’s winged chariot

Alexandria Clark


Just tell me what you're thinking.

Its a little bit too intimate for my liking.

Does it make you feel uncomfortable?

Yes

The fact that it's about you?

More uncomfortable than I would have been.

If it was about someone else?

It still makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable though, the whole thing.

The whole what thing?

You know. You know what went on.

Im sorry to bring it up but..

It's ok.

So how does that make you feel knowing that people might have seen stuff like that. Writing like that. Like if I had written that and other people had read it.

Well I don't know. Obviously you've got to share your feelings, but I'm very private with mine.

How does it make you feel? Reading that, after everything that has happened.

Not too good to be honest.

Are you angry?

Not angry just it's a situation that shouldn't have happened.

As I said, it's a means of getting things down. Recording it for one, for historical reasons. But also to arrange it almost.

Arrange it?

Give it... (pause) almost file it away...

Why do you think I do that?

Because it's a good way, well not only is it a good way of coping, but also its a good way to, exploit it. I can't think of another word!

How would it make you feel if it was written about someone else?

(noise of a car starting fills the room)

Again. It would make me feel uncomfortable because its a very its a very umm...touching piece. It's quite dilemma-ish. I know I've just made a word up, but it signifies a dilemma. What you can and can't do. And everybody's been in that at some time. Some place.

I don't think your crazy. Its artistic expression, its something that I can't do.

(someone sneezes next door)

It's a way. I mean some people may have painted a picture that signifies it, some people may have made a film. But you wrote it
in that sort of way because it is how you feel it is best to portray it. Definitely not crazy. Its just your way of coping, and a way of getting something good out of it. Something positive

Is it strange, that it's been narrated? What has happened.

Kind of. As I say, I'm quite a private person and I tend to try and keep things to myself. It does kind of feel like the story of my life,
or recent times. Have been (pause) used almost, but not used.1

VW: I wonder why I do it?2

RB: To put a brake on Time's winged chariot?3

MA: To pass the time, even though it would have passed away anyway?4

PA: We need to ponder the significance of make-believe, of storytelling, of the fictional.

Why this compulsion to invent? What gives us our need to fabricate existence, to spin yarns, to take from personal experience or pure fancy and generate imaginary situations, characters and lives?5

RB: Perhaps to transmute what would normally be perishable into what must last.6

MA: I write to hold up a mirror to the reader...To thumb my nose at Death...Because to create is human. To create is Godlike.7

SK: Writing's like a kind of looking-glass. At first it reflects the author. But it ends by revealing the reader.8

RB: And then, there's the tremulous thought that one day it will get into other hands. Then what?9

AC: We can pretend the writing is for us alone, but how can it be? Sometimes no one else ever gets to see it, but there is always an audience in mind.

MA: In truth all readers are, among other things, a sort of spy. A spy, a trespasser, someone in the habit of reading other people's letters and diaries...

"The reader does not hear, he overhears."10

AC: Each of us, are voyeurs when reading. And when writing personally, there is always the uneasy excitement of the possibility that it will fall into another's hands. And then, if it did, would it even interest them?

PdM: And then, with young writers, they strike poses, talking endlessly and uninterestingly about themselves in elaborately borrowed references. In each case there is a feeling of being trapped...

Meanwhile, the flow of language hardly ever covers up the sterile silence underneath.11

AC: But it's that underneath where the excitement emerges. The growth from that silence obtained from the continued recording, the continuous voyage that we all take, the constant narrating of our lives.

PA: It's an obsession with identity and the way it is constructed out of and through the medium of stories, words. It's the need for storytelling.
Only through the construction of reality are we truly able to perceive, rationalise and comprehend the one within which we are forced to spend our lives.

I am fascinated by the breaking down of the boundaries between what is lived and what is read; and the blurring of the distinction between what is experienced and what is written.12

MA: Yes. The inability to distinguish between the real and the imagined, or rather the attitude that what we consider real is also imagined:** every life lived is also an inner life.13

If we are writers, we do have multiple selves. All writers are double, for the simple reason that you can never actually meet the author of what you have just read. Too much time has elapsed. The person who wrote, is now a different person. Even if that time is only yesterday; it isn't now. It isn't the now in which you are reading.14

JLB: My double. Well. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things. I do not know which of us has written the page.15

MA: Almost like you have put too much of something or other; yourself, into the "I" that is writing.16

HM: For nobody knows himself, if he is only himself and not also another one at the same time.17

PA: This other is who I write within my work. I find myself always present. My own life is somehow filtered through the work.18

RB: Many are permanently intrigued by being alive and would set down their every breath were it possible.19

MA: I do it to record the world as it is. To set down the past before it is all forgotten. To search for understanding of the reader and myself. To record the times through which I have lived. To celebrate life in all its complexity. To allow for the possibility of hope and redemption. To give back something of what has been given to me.20

RB: It's the fear. The fear that almost everything we do or say or think or feel slips very quickly into oblivion. We just cannot bear that this should be so.21

MA: Perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down by a fear of and a fascination with mortality? An intimation of transience, of evanescence, and thus mortality, coupled with the urge to indite. At the very least we want a witness.22

AC: And then it comes back to the start. "To put a brake on Time's winged chariot". The yearning to stop it for a second. To magic a frozen moment.

The possibility of our existence being lost. (pause) Our pains, our happiness, moments of extremity that affect our lives so much and mean such a lot, just vanishing into the forgotten past. There is a need, that it must be recorded. A yearning so strong that runs through our bodies. That runs through us and our double, that thrills us to record the truth. Whilst we make up the fantasy, that we dream up around it.

Constructed conversation between Virginia Woolf, Ronald Blythe, Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Stefan Kanfer, Alexandria Clark, Paul de Man, Jorge Luis Borges and Henry Miller.


Notes

  1. Conversation between Alexandria Clark and X at approximately 18.20 on 06/03/07 in Nottingham, UK.

  2. BLYTHE, R., 1989. The Penguin Book of Diaries. London: The Penguin Group. (Page 1)

  3. BLYTHE, R., 1989. The Penguin Book of Diaries. London: The Penguin Group. (Page 1)

  4. ATWOOD, M., 2003. Negotiating with the Dead. London: Virago Press. (Page xx)

  5. HOLCOLME, G., Reflections on the work of Paul Auster.Available at:[http://www.calitreview.com/Essays/paul_auster_5007.htm]28 [Accessed 29 March 2007]

  6. BLYTHE, R., 1989. The Penguin Book of Diaries. London: The Penguin Group. (Page 1)

  7. ATWOOD, M., 2003. Negotiating with the Dead. London: Virago Press. (Page xx)

  8. Quote from Stefan Kanfer. BLYTHE, R., 1989. The Penguin Book of Diaries. London: The Penguin Group. (Page 1)

  9. BLYTHE, R., 1989. The Penguin Book of Diaries. London: The Penguin Group. (Page 1)

  10. Le CARRÉ, J., 1974, Smiley's People. New York: Mantam.

  11. De MAN, P., 1955. The Inward Generation. Minnesota Press. (Page 12)

  12. HOLCOLME, G., Reflections on the work of Paul Auster.Available at:[http://www.calitreview.com/Essays/paul_auster_5007.htm]28 [Accessed 29 March 2007]

  13. ATWOOD, M., 2003. Negotiating with the Dead. London: Virago Press. (Page 7)

  14. ATWOOD, M., 2003. Negotiating with the Dead. London: Virago Press. (Page 32)

  15. BORGES, J., 1999. Everything and Nothing. New York: New Directions. (Pages 74-5)

  16. ATWOOD, M., 2003. Negotiating with the Dead. London: Virago Press. (Page 37) [ WILDE, O., 1992. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions.]

  17. Henry Miller quotes Novalis in 'Creation' (sexus) read from STARK, F., 2003\. _Collected Writing: 1993-2003_. New York: Book Works
    

    (Page 012)

  18. HOLCOLME, G., Reflections on the work of Paul Auster.Available at:[http://www.calitreview.com/Essays/paul_auster_5007.htm]28 [Accessed 29 March 2007]

  19. BLYTHE, R., 1989. The Penguin Book of Diaries. London: The Penguin Group. (Page 1)

  20. ATWOOD, M., 2003. Negotiating with the Dead. London: Virago Press. (Page xxi)

  21. BLYTHE, R., 1989. The Penguin Book of Diaries. London: The Penguin Group. (Page 1)

  22. ATWOOD, M., 2003. Negotiating with the Dead. London: Virago Press. (Page 140)