In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard writes of schedules as nets for “catching days.” She says, “I have been looking into schedules.” Then she describes the schedule of a Danish aristocrat living a hundred years ago, who started his day by getting out of bed at four to hunt grouse, woodcock and snipe. Wallace Stevens in his forties woke at six to read for two hours. I long to be an early riser. Yet, on most days, it takes an alarm to pull me out of bed at seven.
Annie Dillard also writes, “There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by…a life spent reading–that is a good life.” Today I’m reading Saving Agnes by Rachel Cusk. It was the 1993 Winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award. Unfortunately the Whitbread Awards have gone the way of stadiums and are now referred to as the Costa Book Awards, as in the coffee.
That is something I’m aspiring to, by the way. A first novel. More specifically, a published first novel.
But back to Saving Agnes, so far my favorite moment is when Agnes is talking to her friend Greta about a weird man, which sends Agnes into her head–one of my favorite places for a character to be. Agnes thinks, “There was another world beneath the surface of the one she chose each day, a dark labyrinth of untrodden paths. Its proximity frightened her. She wondered if she would ever lose her way and wander into it.”
I spend so much time in my head. The trick, it seems, is how to push what’s in there to the surface.