The biographer blurts

Ah dear, it’s time to come clean. The ‘disaster’ has happened: this blog is now a fortnight ahead of the writing of my biography itself. I finished Chapter 14 of the biography with George going over the top on 4 June 1915 and it is now 18 June 1915. To be precise, I finished Chapter 14 on 5 February 2015 and haven’t written a word of the biography since! To be even more pointed, I completed the research for Chapters 15 and 16, which will be very short and take the story to Kittie’s death in 1950, on 18 May 2015, and still haven’t started Chapter 15 itself!

But, I reassure myself, this is not writer’s block. I have never suffered from writer’s block, because I have never had the time to suffer from writer’s block… Yet it’s time in a different sense that has scuppered me now: the problem that I have discussed throughout this blog, of ‘chronotopia’, of having to ‘two-time’ with the ‘real time’ of the blog (day-by-day) and the extended time, joined-up time, narrated time of a biography. I have always found it difficult to keep these two chronotopes in play, yet apart, in my brain whilst writing the blog, and I suppose I have lost the struggle: the blog-time, ‘real time’, ‘synchronicity’, has taken over, to the ‘detriment’ of biography-time. I am resigned to not restarting the biography until the blog closes on 30 July 2015.

As you can imagine, on one level I find this highly irritating. So near to finishing the biography, and yet so far! Yet there are definite, unexpected up-sides.

Through May and early June, when I was writing almost daily posts, I realised the (blindingly obvious) fact that this blog of the last year of George Calderon’s life is a biography in its own right. I never remotely expected to regard it as such — the blog was essentially a way of raising George’s profile and hopefully attracting publishers — but now, I think, I can claim it’s an exercise in the new genre of internet biography, even if it covers only a year. As followers have pointed out to me, it is also autobiographical as it traces my own problems; and many other contemporary themes come into it, above all the War. In any case, as my post yesterday demonstrates, the ‘discipline’ of writing a day-to-day biography in ‘real time’ leads to discoveries that I missed when I was researching and writing Chapters 14 and 15 in ‘longer time’. This is a very good thing. It has already led to my revising parts of Chapter 14 and undoubtedly means I will write Chapter 15 differently (hopefully, more sensitively and accurately) than I would have without the blog.

I shall concentrate on the blog, then, until 30 July 1915/2015. After that, I won’t have to wrestle with chronotopia, with time-bifurcation in the brain, and can just concentrate on biography-time. It will mean the book has taken me nearly five years to research and physically write, which is frustrating since I thought it would take me three, but colleagues keep assuring me ten years is par for the course for a full-length biography. In any case, it’s not as though I am writing nothing. I write thousands of words a week on the blog!

It all convinces me more than ever that George Calderon: Edwardian Genius is about ‘tourbillions in Time’ (Robert Graves, ‘On Portents’); time past and time present…

*                    *                    *

When I say that I shall have spent five years researching and writing this biography, I should admit that that’s not true sensu stricto: I first tracked down George and Kittie’s papers thirty years ago, tinkered with Calderoniana over the years, but was able to get down to detailed research, and writing, only when I ‘semi-retired’. This accounts for why some kind friends tell me I have been ‘working on Calderon’ for thirty years; but that is not true in any focussed, professional, biographical sense, blokes and blokesses.

Next entry: Life at Hoe Benham


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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