Monday, December 11, 2006

Simon Gray On Writing A Play About Dickens

The British are wonderful writers, especially when wallowing in misery. Here's writer Simon Gray on his decades-long struggle about turning his obsession with Charles Dickens into a play...or a movie...or a radio broadcast...or something.
Bernard Shaw said that writing a play was either easy or impossible. My play wasn't impossible: I'd been at it too long and spent too much of my best blood on it to allow it to be impossible. I reverted to the old tactic of stealing up on it when it wasn't looking, and then batter, batter, batter: "Come out you bastard, and fight!" etc. But of course I was nearly 40 years older than the last time I'd attempted it, overweight and short of breath, so I gave that up and tried cheating - by putting what I thought to be my best draft on the computer. From it I extracted drafts galore, draft on draft on draft, sometimes attaching the top half of one to the bottom half of another. This is the great thing about the computer, at least for someone of my generation, with my sort of temperament: it gives you the illusion of work. You go to bed at five in the morning with squinty eyes, a befuddled head and an unnatural but satisfied sense of having cut, copied and pasted yourself to well-earned oblivion.

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