Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter

Life, Writing

Legibility was never high on the agenda

Dear Ren,

11th December 2016, 19:42

I start this knowing that I won’t finish it today, but I felt the need to start it anyway. Last night I got an unbroken 8 hours sleep, which is close to a miracle for me. It probably has something to do with the whole front of the house being covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin (still one of my favourite Norwegian words – presening) because of the repair work going on. That in itself is a long story, and one I shouldn’t bore anyone with. Suffice it to say a small repair job turned into a huge one, a second mortgage, to stop the front of the house collapsing in one corner, and the choice of builder appears to have caused some old prejudices in the village to resurface. We will see. I think we’re resigned to the fact that it won’t be finished before Christmas because lime render needs dryness and a not-freezing temperature to cure properly. And I know I shouldn’t say this, but I don’t actually like sleeping so late. Maybe I’ll have to start setting an alarm for Sundays, too!

12th December 2016, 13:24

I had hoped to continue this sooner, but today is already proving to be a trial, mainly on the work front, and this is the day I write emails to all those who have applied for grants telling them whether they’ve been successful or not. Not my favourite day, I must admit – and that’s probably all I can say about my job, a job I love but which I’m probably too emotionally attached into (and that’s not a typo).

While writing this, right from the beginning, I’m listening (have been listening) to the Christmas mix-CD I send every year (your copy enclosed). This is the 15th! And even though you’ve not been getting them from the beginning, it’s dead important to me that you do get one. This is Not Nul Points XV, and they started when we first moved to Norway and I discovered there was so much unbelievably brilliant stuff coming out of a country the English made fun of for getting Nul Points at the Eurovision Song Contest. Well, we’ll be seeing who’ll be getting Nul Points in European foreign relations, won’t we? Can’t ever resist a political jibe at those against free movement of people.

Anyhow …

I think your poetry-Instagram allusion might be a little too modern (and that’s probably because I’m so very old); it’s probably that poetry, more than any other medium, was the way to commit visual events to memory. Of course, there’s painting, but not everyone can paint in a representative way. Ok, not everyone can write good poetry, but you get the drift; and before we could take photos there was nothing more instant than words, and, to be honest, there still isn’t. Although I have to admit that I am always envious of visual artists who can just hang up the fruits of their labour and sell them if they make an instant impression. Writers don’t quite have the same avenue open to them (although exhibitive writing or whatever it’s called is now increasing in significance). As usual, I’m probably simplifying too much.

As I write, K is messaging me on facebook with some outstanding news. Ah, the joys of children doing/achieving what they wish for. That’s a warm feeling inside.

And now you’ve just messaged me. This merging of our digital and written communications, because I do think of your letters to me as paper letters, is quite odd and interesting – I got to thinking about this because I know from fb about the Old Lady’s injury, and your letter assumes that knowledge. This modern age is brilliant in so many ways.

What’s fascinating also is that many of your cultural references aren’t mine – not because you’re originally from the US, but because I moved to Germany when I was 3, and as a result have almost no childhood cultural references. So I don’t know anything about The Little Engine That Could. And equally I have no real German cultural references, except for celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve, as it should be. The only other one is that I was a Karl May addict – he’s a German writer who died in 1912 who wrote over 70 adventure novels, most of them in the Wild West (Old Shatterhand being one of his main characters) and in the Middle East. I have all his books (in German) but the downside is that he’s said to be Hitler’s favourite author. I don’t know what, if anything, that says about me.

Gashed – the one painting I’ve sold

Lies of omission – that’s opening up a whole can of worms. They do say that most successful relationships are those where secrets are kept I’m never sure I agree with that. You see, the problem is that we’ll all die on our own, even if we’re with someone who loves us. So why die with secrets? Unless, of course, they are ones that happened before we loved, and ones which would destroy not enhance. I suppose this is just me wanting the world to be as I wish it to be, not how it really is. It can never be the way we want it to be, because that would involve immortality, wouldn’t it? And that’s where we get to the moments lasting forever full circle piece – I’m not sure I could write such a short story about that, because you’re right. The downs are essential so we can have the ups. And eating healthy cake would be boring in so many ways. So better to have sadness AND happiness, to have love AND lust, to have tiredness AND passion. We can still write those stories if you want, but not this year. I have another new book in my head – all these ideas are making me scream and wanting to slow down time and/or win the lottery so I can write them. Perhaps I’m just not committed enough, because I don’t want to sacrifice my family time, or my fitness time I(although today I have), or my job time, to the writing. Or my sleep. Pathetic, really.

Talking of sleep, I find wine very rarely interferes with mine. Though, of course, as M will tell you, I’m not actually very good at sleeping. I slept for over 8 hours on Saturday night, which for me is a miracle. I’m guessing if we average it out over the last 25-odd years, my nightly sleep is about 5 hours. And often I thrive on it, even now, although that’s becoming rarer and rarer, and I find myself cursing whoever said old people need less sleep. I just curse sleeplessness when I’m sitting naked in the kitchen at 2 a.m. eating a biscuit and drinking water. Although at 1:30 this morning I was in my boxer shorts because O is now home and likely to be up and around at that time (as he was).

I’ve been messing up appointments etc recently, too, and not just recently, actually; most of my adult life. I have dreams of having a Personal Assistant. Ha! More recently I do think it’s because there’s too much in my head, as I’m sure there’s too much in yours, too. That’s the price we pay for being writers – because we’re always carrying our stories around with us, always turning them over in our minds, from the expanse of plots down to minutiae of single words and phrases, trying out millions of versions of the same sentence until we find the one that’s right, and probably exactly at the one time when we have nothing to write on, or when we’re in the middle of a conversation with someone else (and probably important or dependent).

The only two reasons I don’t forget this family’s birthdays and anniversaries are the fear of being killed for forgetting, and the fact that I’m the romantic, the most romantic. And so men should be.

I’m afraid of enumerating all the fears I have when it comes to thinking about the family. I never had real existential fear before we had children. I’ll leave that there.

Thank you for re-reading Bee Bones, and for liking it, and for not giving its essence away. I still think it sums up much of what I’d lived up to when it was written, and probably what I’ve lived since. I did write a version with a different ending but didn’t like it as much. Do we have to like our own writing?

My hand-writing getting ragged now – that’s because I’ve got one eye on the clock. I swear people won’t ever understand that I have two full-time jobs – the one that pays the mortgage, and the writer job. “Just because I work from home doesn’t mean I don’t do anything,” he screams at the world. Oh well.

This probably means I should bring this to a close. You can probably only read these letters because you have a typed version of them online. Legibility was never high on the agenda for me, nor being understood.

If we don’t write before Christmas, God Jul til deg og E og ungene.

Have a peaceful time.



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