Sunday, November 1, 2009


I said to a writer friend recently that I was just about going mad with the intensity of the research. In the last few weeks I’ve read so many dense texts that I suffered from reader fatigue. I felt like some kind of word borer that had got into big heavy tomes and ate its way through, digesting and shitting at the same time - trapped in a claustrophically small space . But I also felt obese. I had lost use of my legs, or rather they had shrunk and multiplied so when I looked down they were centipede-like and horribly white, as befits an insect which shies away from light. I lost all sense of perspective: instead I laboured along, ricocheting from end of line to end of line, caught in some infernal game which did not stop even when I slept. 

Instead I awoke to special moments of anxiety when I realised this unsleeping centipede was still working, still eating, still digesting, a horrible smile on its lips - very close to a leer. I knew Kafka had been there before me and expressed this horrific state superbly. But I had lost sense of an overall view: all I could see was how much further I had to go and I felt like lying down and having ‘a little nap’ - a dangerous thing to do in this state...

Maybe for this reason I’ve staged an escape. I am running away, up North. I am going to look at the remains of missionary life at Waimate North, Paihia, Kerikeri. William Colenso lived there in the 1830s. He met Darwin there. He also had one or two other adventures....and I hope to have some myself...


  1. How crazily Alice-in-Wonderland it all sounds, and such an evocative rendition of how unhinged writing and research can make a person. An escape sounds a good way to fix and re-oil the hinges ... Good luck (and keep posting, I enjoy your posts very much.)

  2. Thanks, Mary. I was talking to Stephanie Johnson today and she said to me - it's time you started writing. It's that moment of total anxiety - of leaving the world of 'facts' behind and launching off....I'm hoping traveling round will ease the feeling of panic....and reconnect me to the mystery which is really what lures all of us on, don't you think?

  3. Yes, the mystery, and not shining a light on it, but deepening it - and yes, sometime the research has to stop and only you can call a halt to it, because research is endless and endlessly engaging - that's what I found with The Blue ... I like that you baked the cake, though, that sort of research is connective tissue.

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