Thursday, September 15, 2016

One of "Us"

The neighbors were at it again, arguing with a persistence you could not ignore. When you set out to plead with them for a return to civility, you were reminded of the dramatic cliche in which police, responding to domestic squabbles, are in more danger of violence than when dealing with criminals.

Sure enough, you came away battered, mugged to the point where one of the hundred titles you'd selected with such care for your current project became the victim. Since this had happened before, you were not surprised: Writing is in a real sense a form of domestic violence--at least, the kinds of writing you do radiates such dangers.

The matter at hand this time was over a novel that needed to be included in your examination, Injury Time , by the late British writer/actor Beryl Bainbridge, a title suggested to you in the early 1980s by Digby Wolfe, with whom you were on your way to forming a deep, epic friendship. "Subversive," was the way Wolfe described the book to you.

Indeed, Injury Time, with its mordant practicality, did subvert you concept of such matters as personal comfort, boundaries, and social contact. In brief, the protagonist, Edward, although married to Helen and commuting to work in London from the outer reaches of suburbia, has entered into an affair with Binny, a coworker. Binny lives in London, where much of the affair is engaged, and has reached the point where Binny is pressing for them to host as a couple a dinner party at her London flat.

Succumbing to Binny's pressures, Edward approaches colleagues he knows to also be married and having an extramarital affair, which, so far, seems a delicious concept for story and a shrewd approach to dramatizing the contemporary ideas of extramarital activity, of relationships in general, and morality in specific.

Beryl Bainbridge, so far as you know, took up writing when her own entry into middle age, itself a vital social commentary, seemed to cause difficulty in being cast in the ingenue and young love roles to which she'd been accustomed. 

You admired her set-up in Injury Time, but were captivated by the next step in her manner of turning up the force of circumstances. Enter a group of Irish terrorists being pursued by the police. They enter Binny's apartment building at the time of Edward and Binny's dinner party, gain entrance to Bonny's apartment, then hold the assembly hostage while trying to out wait the pursuing police.

The most memorable part of the early story has Edward explaining to the leader of the terrorists that he must leave to catch the last train home, lest his wife discover his illicit activities, and the stark disbelief of the terrorist leader.

Injury Time was one of the first novels to bring you to the vision you began to develop over ensuing years of characters and actors being interchangeable, of the stage-like dramatic presence you see in story, of an actor as a writer. How, as your "neighbors" argued, could you not have such a title as an integral subject in your current book at hand?

The writing you've done on this project to date has reminded you how the hundred novels referenced in the subtitle are in many ways your writing mentors. Injury Time, and its exquisite irony of circumstance and the attitudes of its characters, led you directly to the second of the two individuals you consider your actual mentors. When you got around to asking Virginia Gilmore if she'd read Injury Time, she smiled when she told you, "She [Beryl Bainbridge] is one of us, you know."

No comments: