Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter

Life, Writing

Tangents, and not tangents

Dear Ren,

Interesting, these letters. I love the way they go off on tangents which then prove not to be tangents at all. And I think I like writing these in ink first so that I don’t go back and self-edit. Because, although these are private letters (maybe personal is a better word) they are going public straightaway, and I don’t want to end up writing as if I were addressing the public. This is a letter to you that I choose to share.

I’m writing this to the CD I’ve put together to do all my 2016 writing to – I know you think it’s odd, but if I feel there’s going to be a theme to my writing (or my mind) I’ll put something together. Sometimes it’s just for a particular book (and it’ll say so on the CD). For The Failed Assassin I didn’t need to put one together (if I remember correctly) because Lana del Rey’s Born To Die album was perfect – I just put it on repeat, and away I went. I used Catfish & the Bottlemen’s The Balcony in the same way for The Immortality Clock, which is sitting somewhere waiting for me to publish it.

By the way, I never refer back to my previous letters, so if I end up repeating myself, so be it. Before the internet I wouldn’t have been able to do that anyway, as I’m not in the habit of making copies (long-hand or photo) of any letters I write.

Anyway – what you say about the acceptance of weather viz Ben Saunders and you on a mountain, brings back a memory, or memories combined. I’m sure I read somewhere a long long time ago, that Native Americans taught their children (mainly the boys) that they had to relax and let the cold pass through them, or take it in as energy, to survive it. And then they would send them out into the cold for a night or more, naked, and they would be adults when they came back. That’s one half of the memory. The other half is that two or three days after M and I first got together (the weekend after, it will have been) A (so I am editing names, sorry), now O’s godmother, came to stay, and we went for a really long walk on the hills around Newbury, and she was cold, so I gave her my jumper and told her that Native American story and tried to apply it (and it worked), and at the same time told her that I’d fallen in love with M (and A was always the first to know about my loves because she’s such a good old friend, was even then). Some might say that this relaxing, this acceptance, can be deadly, too, in the cold, in space – some people call it euphoria, and it can lead to you wanting to stay exactly where you are, because you never want to lose it. And it’s certainly not a bracing feeling.

I’d like to see Lodén’s paper/essay about you and read it in Norwegian. I bet late means mature (and I’m not having a go at your Norwegian); it’s your typical modesty/self-doubt that turns it into the harbinger of the end of an era. Your publisher must love your work very much, or maybe he knows something you don’t know about the kulturråd, or he is simply as sure as I am that you’re quite brilliant and your voice has to be heard. On the being published, part of it is prestige, I suppose, and, again, that validation from a third party, that’s what it is about. But does it matter that it’s about that? We’re human, after all. And, actually, third-party validation comes as much from people buying self-published books, or taking poems along with gingerbread. (I always like to eat when I’m reading, although K, my acupuncturist, tells me I shouldn’t because the body should focus on food entirely, not anything else).

I always keep meaning to read some Crace, ever since you told me a long time ago that he’s your favourite novelist. I think writing different genres is just an expression of the different people in our heads, so yes, Jekyll and Hyde, but more of them than just the two. Not just that, but writers are story tellers, and why tell the same type of story every time? The more variety the better. I don’t think they had genres  sitting round the fires in the very olden days, and I don’t think those listening decided not to listen to their story teller from one day to the next because he’d changed the type of story we was performing. It’s an invention of marketers, and yet more proof that writing is becoming nothing more than product to be placed, which I guess brings me nicely to agree with you about populism (in more things than just writing), although I’m not sure the Dylan Nobel Prize is necessarily a symptom of that (All Along the Watch Tower is just a poem set to music, I have always felt).

You’ve not told me much about your project, so you won’t lose momentum. And we’ll leave that there, just like I’ll tell you nothing more about Ice Child except that I’ve been spending most of nano editing rather than writing with abandon. But it’ll be better for that – characters need to have a base before they can go off and do their own thing and tell me about it.

It’s just gone 9pm and I’ve relocated from the office to the kitchen. It’s the time of day when I grab myself a beer and go outside to drink (too greedily) from it, and to have a cigarette in the other hand. I always used to do this when we’d put the children to bed and they were asleep – a big relax, but not so big now because a) they’re still up, and b) there always seems to be something to do. So writing to you once a week has become a good, calming, relaxing thing.

Interesting that you and your ex share that wonderful old lady dog whom I have a couple of photos of. I didn’t know that. I guess it just goes to show how much of our lives they take over. Only for me, as you know, cats not dogs. And I needed the cat today as it was a really bad morning. I told C on fb I was having a bad time, and she messaged me back suggesting I read a book or spend time with the cat. So I did both – lay stomach-down on C’s bed, started reading The Cursed Child, and the cat came and lay down beside me. Of course, what I had been waiting for all morning (3 hours) came within 15 minutes of me starting to read. Typical! (I can’t control how many loops I put into some words when writing long-hand – how weird is that?)

The missing my children thing – even when they’re not here I go into their bedrooms to say good night when I go to bed. I think I got that from my mother – she did it, too. At least I don’t go round unplugging every electrical device – she did. Not sure the cat is preparing C for my demise. The children have been through several cat deaths already, but I think children always think their parents are immortal. Even when Mum had been fully taken over by dementia I think I still thought she’d get through it and live forever. I love what you said about the Old Lady – first a baby, then an elder. I wonder why I’d never thought of that – perhaps because cats are mostly always frivolously contrary. Maybe that’s how I want to be when I get older. When I get the time to – because although I’d always hoped that getting older would bring me stability (financial and other) and time, that hasn’t happened – yet. And I long to have time to be without worry, and to be creative, and to write lots of letters to lots of people.

We do need animals, and we do need people, in our lives. We can learn from both. It’s just that I very often doubt that I’ve been paying attention to the lessons. Because, somehow, with every day that passes I feel increasingly lost in a world that somehow doesn’t quite make sense anymore. And, to be honest, I refuse to accept the world as it is. I refuse to resign. Maybe that’s the reason for me feeling more of an outsider than ever. Whether or not I can rejoice in that, I’m not sure, but I suppose it’s better than just shrugging and giving up.

On that positive note,

much love to you and E, and the boys, and the Old Lady,


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