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Mr Golightly's Holiday
   
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"Take hold tightly, let go lightly; this is one of the great secrets of felicity in love."

Although "Mr Golightly's Holiday" arose out of a series of accidents, there is in it a theme which has lived with me steadily for many years. In writing any novel there will be a number of subtle influences which later, when they have become part of a digested whole, it is hard to bring clearly to light, but there was a particular idea which has intrigued me and which has affected the underlying themes of this book: I owe to the critic Northrop Frye the brilliant observation that, temperamentally, we tend either to favour the tragic or the comic outlook. It was his contention that Dante, Shakespeare, and the authors behind the New Testament were, in essence, finally comedians - hence the Divine Comedy - by which he meant not that they were a fund of belly laughs but that ultimately they saw life as more powerful than the forces which conspire against it: that the canon of their works - for all their equivocation and deep ambiguity - evolves towards "happy" ends. Happy ends are not fashionable nowadays but a "happy" end does not necessarily imply Pollyanna or Panglossism - that an author believes that all of life is agreeable, or that everything is moving inevitably towards the best possible conclusion. It merely implies a particular slant of vision, one which sees the potential, deep in the core of human affairs, for misfortune's alternative - a view which may in fact encourage just that possibility. For while art can never replicate life itself, it does affect and influence it. It is arguable, therefore, that there is a responsibility at least not to overlook the comic as a component of the real.

In its small way, "Mr Golightly's Holiday" is an example of this outlook, not just in its subject matter and conclusion but in its inception. It arose out of a period of turmoil in my life. I was, in fact, writing a different novel when events cut the threads of my concentration so that book was set aside in the distractions of the personal drama I found myself acting in. At the lowest point, when things stood around my bed in the small hours looking worse and worse, and I thought I may never write again, the idea of "Mr Golightly's Holiday" stole upon me and I am convinced that it was the wreck of my former plans which allowed its admission.

Many people have commented that my books often feature, apparently adverse, events which, through the attitudes of the particular characters become capable of larger, more fulfilling outcomes. "Mr Golightly's Holiday" is no exception. I cannot say I am a better or wiser person through writing this book - but I can say the process of writing it was an extraordinary one and that in the process all kinds of synchronicities occurred.

For example, while I wrote the book while living in a small village on Dartmoor, it was not until after I had finished writing it that, unwilling to leave a landscape I had fallen in love with - people laugh at me for suggesting this but, to my mind, Dartmoor and Venice, both ancient and mysterious locations, have much in common - I rented a small and delightful cottage which in almost very particular, and to an uncanny degree, resembled Spring Cottage where Mr Golightly spends his holiday. So much so that when I learned the owners planned to bring it up to date by getting rid of the avocado bathroom suite, I begged them not to. There were other, stranger, coincidences which arose after my writing had been completed, all of which confirmed my view that the book, whatever else, was on some kind of right lines. What those "lines" are I leave to my readers, who are always the best judges, to discover, though I would suggest they have something to do with where the real and the imaginary worlds touch and influence each other, with the confusion between "real" and "unreal", with the way the extraordinary lives in the very ordinary; and also the virtues of not being "right", of knowing one's limits, of going, in general, lightly. Going lightly is an undervalued occupation - if I have a hope for this book (and I'm not sure that authors any more than parents should have "hopes" for their progeny) this book might encourage more of it...


 
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