Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Rewriting: kill your darlings (2)

Another easy decision in the rewrite of No Angel Hotel was to remove the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I’d been attached to what I now call my second-hand "darlings" when I first wrote the book, but jettisoned them for the new edition.

I did love those quotes but, thinking back on it, I believe I'd put them there in the hope of making my first novel have more literary "weight". My younger self didn’t think my own words were enough. I can still remember the amount (a considerable chunk of the small fee I received in advance royalties). Some people who dispensed the permissions were extremely generous and asked for no remumeration for a few quoted lines from a first-time novelist. I am still grateful, Vera Nabokov and Olywn Hughes. As beautiful as some of those twenty-four chapter quotes were (from sources as diverse as Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood, Vladimir Nabokov's "Spring in Fialta" and T S Eliot’s "The Waste Land"), they all disappeared from the fourth imprint at no detriment to the manuscript.

I did, however, keep the epigraphs at the beginning of each of the four sections the book is divided into: Autumn 1966, Summer 1967, The End of Summer 1968 and Fall 1980. Reading a short quote on each of these pages slows a reader down just enough so they register that time has been kaleidoscoped, flash forwarded.

My favourite quotation in the book is two sentences taken from a short story by a friend of mine, Victor Rowe. "Night Time" is his plangent tale about an unequal love affair and absolutely perfect for the third section of No Angel Hotel. "How I hug my antique grief to me, it keeps me warm." Thanks, Victor.

Stay tuned . . .

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