Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bottling Bitter, Part III

The funny thing, or else the unfunny thing, about this train of thought is that it began not with the actual bottling of British Bitter but with the arrival of two checks (one of them was from the ever-admirable RedJack Books, for some illustration work I did at the request of the ever-admirable Heidi Lampietti). Both checks arrived in a single day, suddenly rescuing my bank account from its constant hovering near the perilous zeroes -- the dragging-down Charybdis which has threatened it for something like two years. Martha has been gainfully employed during this period, fortunately, which enabled us to keep going as a household: but these two years were times that would have been far more psychically trying for me had I not lived through far worse periods -- and had I not learned to cope, mentally in addition to physically, with those far-worse conditions.

One of the causes of this long financial drought is that I embraced the writing of the Kornbluth biography as a way out of the drought's looming imminence, two years ago. After I embraced it, and once I was working on the book, I managed to do almost nothing else -- which means I was taking almost no side-jobs of the sort that would bring in short-term writing income. I was at the C.M. Kornbluth task for seven days of the week -- with a day rarely being as short as eight hours long. During a goodly period it was not unusual at all for me to find myself awake at 2:30 a.m., my mind alive with the project ... at which point I would give up trying to sleep, rise, and start in again at the task. Fourteen-hour workdays were not unusual.

Barry N. Malzberg, by the way, found himself losing sleep, himself, after having read my Kornbluth biography. There was a great deal of personal angst and bitterness running as an undercurrent in my writing of that book; yet I hardly believe it was that which was keeping Barry awake. What kept him awake this past winter was the same thing that had kept me owl-eyed the winter before: the incredible and sometimes terrible nature of that life about which I was writing.

If ever there was a reader to pick up on and fully internalize a bitterness that has been cellared and at long last uncorked to freshen in the air, by the way, it is Barry. I regard him as almost ideal reader of this book. That he could read it with understanding, and hear within it notes that resonated deeply with his own experience, helped me feel that what I had undertaken was worthwhile.

Cheers ...

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