But... but writers must NEVER retreat! We are the vanguard of our species' imagination! The unacknowledged legislators of the world, and all that.
Yes I know, I am being silly and ignoring an apostrophe. Let me be sensible and talk about this story in Rosalie Parker's collection Sparks from the Fire
. Real writers writing about fictional people being writers is a tricky area. In cinema the result is almost always dire, while on the page descriptions of somebody sitting in a room getting stressed can have limited appeal. But this story does offer an interesting twist on the story of a bunch of writers in a house being all pretentious. And randy.
Joel is a part--time writer and full-time house-dad to baby Alison. Alison' mother, Sophie, goes to work. Joel is suffering from that old pram-in-the-hall syndrome (though it may be a buggy in a porch). He is working on a novel, but not making much progress. Then he receives a stroke of luck in the form of an award. He, and a bunch of other scribblers, can go to a rather nice house in Scotland and get some writing done without any distractions.
That, at least, is the theory. When Joel arrives he finds himself a bit of a fish out of water. Everyone else is already there and some are either firm friends or, in the case of self-regarding Gerald and young radical Alex, pairing off. The owner of the Scottish mansion is a charming old chap, however, and the food is splendid. What's more, Joel does have a monkish cell in which to write, free from all distractions.
Something seems a little out of kilter with the setup, but it is does not seem sinister. Then something very odd happens. Sophie turns up with baby Alison. It seems someone from the retreat told her Joel is at risk and needs her. Joel is confused, as well he might be. It gradually emerges that one person on the retreat had a motive to make the call, and their reasons are a tad disturbing.
Without revealing the secret of the retreat, this is an interesting variant on a theme that never goes out of style. Creativity, and its many mysteries, will never be uninteresting until our machines do all our creating for us.
More from this running review very soon!