We were seated at the feet of the Great Writer who at 37 already had three novels published, the latest of which had just won the Booker Prize as it was then known.
“I will tell you a secret,” he said. “one which is not really a secret. It has been known for millennia but it has been largely overlooked and forgotten. Aristotle first taught it in his ‘Poetics.’. It is the principle of Endings. “
We leant forward. I had my notebook ready. “The ending,” he said, “is written in the beginning. There should be only one way a story can end. The challenge for any writer is to surprise the audience with the inevitability of everything that happens. There is no such thing as alternative endings. I repeat, there is only one way a story can end.”
do you agree with that? Is there only one way to end a story?
can you think of a story — fairy tale, parable, short story, film — that could have ended in a way different to how it did?
have you read Salman Rushdie’s Booker prize winning novel, ‘Midnight’s Children’?
My body alarms me.
It rings two or three times a night.
Who’s in charge here anyway?
Poetry flowed from me
Like water from a garden hose.
Days were diamonds.
My feet horses’ hooves.
Nothing defeated me.
I was sharp as Sherlock.
Prolific as Zola.
I had two hounds.
The wheels turn.
Accept, my friend tells me, Embrace.
Loss is gain.
Now is the new normal.
What seems to be the trouble , he asks .
I cough and splutter all over the place .
He gets the message .
Sits down to write the certificate .
There , he says , handing the form to me . This should do the trick .
I peruse it quickly .
There’s something missing, I say, why I had time off .
That’s right . If you had Alzheimers or a social disease would you want
people to know ?
Certainly not .
My point exactly .
But I thought you had to put something down .
No , he says . And if they ask , tell them to take a running jump . Better still , tell them to phone me and I’ll tell them to take a running jump . Only in stronger terms .
He stands up . Shakes my hand .
The next day at work I hand in the certificate .
He’s right .
They see the blank space but no one says a word .
I push it a bit further .
On the official form , the one you fill out yourself , where it says Illness I put down ‘See Certificate’ .
It feels good . It really does .
I’ve found a new way to treat with the world .
I’ve got a poem for you, a very short one, he promised with a garrulous grin, and then, in a long-winded introduction in which all the masters of brevity were cited, he proceeded to demolish the very notion of shortness. The poem took ten seconds, the intro five minutes.
I could go for a walk but I can’t be buggered.
I could check my Facebook status but I can’t be buggered.
I could cut back the bush near the letter box so the postie can chuff past more easily on his motor scooter.
But I can’t be buggered.
I could put more effort in getting my next manuscript together — the editor is interested — but I can’t be buggered doing that either.
I almost can’t be buggered writing this poem about not being buggered.
Would rather curl up in the sun out the back with a good crime novel and lose myself in the plot.
I do not much like her novels.
They are crammed with characters like clowns jammed in jalopies.
But I like her epilogues.
They are lean and succinct, sinewy.
A bit like you, Bev says with a chuckle.
I may not have a novel in me but I have a draw full of epilogues.
And when push comes to shove I can pump out prologues at the drop of a hat.
It’s the in-between bits I’m not good at.
I could leave them to someone else.
Jilly Cooper, for instance.