Following on, loosely, from Havoc and Desire: A Problem of Method (1), I thought I’d outline the larger work which I’m proposing to begin. While there is a collaborative project which I’m hoping will start in the next few months – funding and assorted other nonsense pending (more if and when it becomes a little more concrete) – I’ll also be working on an individual piece.
Over the last few months I’ve felt the distinct sense of absence that comes from not having a commitment to a ‘lengthy’ work. Post-PhD, there was definitely a feeling of ‘what next?’, and that wasn’t really something I liked. While I got the opportunity to go back to other forms of writing that had largely been on hold during the thesis (something which I hope to continue now that balance is more than a distant theoretical possibility), I missed that sense of focus and challenge which that kind of work offers. While I’ve worked on plenty of disparate pieces since finishing The Language of Self, there is something about the gravitational pull and focus of a monograph-length work which is impossible to replace – hence the preliminary sketch.
The idea which has slowly coalesced is to undertake a book-length study of John’s work. While I love his early novels, Dumbhouse in particular, I think there is something about the last three – The Devil’s Footprints, Glister, A Summer of Drowning – which marks a change of focus and method. Each, in its own way, explores related themes in a related manner (though with very different results), and in this sense it feels the perfect subject for a longer work which traces and theorises that commonality and difference.
In the next post I’ll sketch a little more detail.