25 September 2008

Letter 3.45

I've finished Bones now. I must be in very select company, having read it twice -- once in Ceylon. It's the only book of yours I've been able to read through. The density of your prose requires an effort that few will care to make, even if assured in advance of the value of the effort. For myself, I could only make such an effort when in very suitable surroundings, such as the monastery I'm now at -- Buddhadasa's (you may have heard of him).

When I read an earlier draft of Bones in Ceylon I recall a much stronger plot line than I seem to find in this version. Indeed, on reading this version quite carefully, and spending some time considering it, there are still some points of importance that are not at all clear to me. Now, no doubt I could sit dawn and invent what needs to be invented to fill in these gaps (and no doubt in some cases I will), but still this book has been with you for many years now, and I'm sure you've got it figured out in your mind, even if not on paper, to the point where all action and motivation (apart from language) are clear. (I remember in Afghanistan you told me the whole plot, quite coherently, in about 5 minutes. Something like that would be useful to me in writing.) Therefore, I pose to you the following questions and ask that you reply in as mundane a vocabulary as possible, being as specific as possible. Your collaboration in removing these uncertainties (or, atleast, raising them to a higher level than the mundane level of plot and motivation) can best be affected by replying in this manner...

Why does Mohel have to go through all this holy man shit, or even talk with Premier Takataka, as part of his effort to get the Buddha's bones? His doing so is great, but it must be believable; i.e. we must feel he is acting sensibly, with suitable motivation to reach the goal set for him, in the most efficient way. If we can be made to believe that the holy-man-cum-politics is the only way the bones can be had, we'll love it; but first we're not made to believe this and second, Ven. Tanha's offer, with no apparent motive, completely undermines all these efforts, making them seem pointless posing or lunatic activities which, somehow -- how? -- manage not to destroy the purpose, but waste our time in trying to get to the point of the book, which, whatever it is, has to do, surely, with obtaining the bones...

I could also use more about the political involvement of the various characters. Like a chronological account of the Samadhi political events, as if it were a magazine account, say -- identifying the various factions, their main interests, strengths, and weaknesses, etc., and what they do-with/to each other.

If the story hangs together in a coherent context, it's beautiful. If it doesn't, it's just a lot of beautiful words floating past in the gutter.

Consider these questions and comments no put-down of your work on Bones, but a real interest on my part to find a way to retell what I remember to be a good story (good stories are always worth a retelling). You've got much of your story in your head, and the book is for yourself. I'd like to share the story around and need to have some answers to do so -- your answers if I can get them; otherwise I'll have to find my own.

Love to you, brother,


No comments: