I spent a good deal of yesterday gazing more in resignation than in hope at an airport departure board and so missed posting on the anniversary of Mark Twain’s death. He is a perennially uncontested entry in my list of favourite authors. The day I grow tired of reading him I will truly be tired of life.
MT accurately predicted his own death on the basis that he had been born in a year when Halley’s Comet approached Earth (1835) and would surely leave this life on the comet’s next return in 1910. And so he did. He imagined God saying to Himself, ‘Now here are a pair of unaccountable freaks. They came in together and must go out together.’
A week away from the desk is beneficial in many ways – a rest for the eyes from the computer screen for one thing. The pleasure or not with which one returns to work is a good test of how things are going and particularly of whether certain characters are turning out to be satisfactory creations. Absence makes the ear grow sharper. Is someone too predictable, too monochrome, too improbable? Monday morning I may well have to call a couple of characters into my office for a final warning. I have the power of life and death, but fortunately only on the page.