As I have mentioned before, I am writing a love story set in Singapore in the 1930’s. And I have been so busy researching and fiddling with my plot that I have completely failed to dwell on the main idea: the love.
So the other night I asked my husband what was the most romantic book he’d ever read.
Without a hesitation he said, Justine.
Of the Alexandria Quartet.
By Lawrence Durrell.
I had read it too, long ago, just before I met my husband. (And I sometimes wonder if the fact I had read his favourite novel was a deciding point in my favour.) And what I remember is not the story, but a vague sense of heat and languid thought. And an aching yearning for love.
But I hadn’t thought about the book for a long time. Interested to see what had touched him so much, I decided to pick it up again. And now every night I read a bit. And in those quiet moments before I fall asleep, life slows down. The language is like a saunter down a hot steamy street.
He writes things like: ““I am quite alone. I am neither happy nor unhappy; I lie suspended like a hair or a feather in the cloudy mixtures of memory.”
And I want to shoot my first draft in the head. It’s all so fast and clicky and full of intent.
Of course Justine was written before there was cable TV, MSN messaging, cell phones and twitter. And you can just feel the beauty of slowness, in movement and in thought.
It is set in Alexandria, Egypt. Pre-World War II. And the love is for a woman named Justine.
“There are only three things to be done with a woman…, Durrell once wrote. “You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.”
So I’m trying, I’m trying. But I have to slow down. Slow everything down.
Of course he also wrote: “It takes a lot of energy and a lot of neurosis to write a novel. If you were really sensible, you’d do something else.”
photo by feastoffun.com