A Facebook conversation about a house on Route 9 which was converted into rental units reminded me about how much I wanted to live in The Landmark condominiums nearby. This strong longing to buy a duplex apartment became painful when it proved difficult to satisfy. And this was before I found out that some scholars believe that the Landmark, a converted school, stands on the site of the model for the Van Tassel farm of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame.
Though I was able to buy a cooperative apartment up the hill from it, one with better, though seasonal, views of the Hudson, I never got over the desire to live at the splendid structure across the way. The Landmark, and the distant Hudson, is the first thing I see each morning from my bedroom window. I supposed it is no coincidence that one of my fictional characters, Blake, a NYC schoolteacher, buys an apartment there in the opening chapter, “Business First.” There the resemblance between us
ends. I don’t think I will ever cross the wide financial divide between this historic place and the pre-war, mock Tudor, building that hovers over it at the back, but I am aware every day of the many things I have been able to do by compromising on one dream.
My Scottish grandmother often said, “Can ye imagin?” The world was forever a place of wonder to her. This rendering of the opening of The Gospel According to Saint John, would surely have brought out such a response.
In the beginning o aa things the Wurd wis there ense, an the Wurd bade wis God.
For God sae luved the warld at he ged his aie an ane Son, at ilkane at believes in him mayna perish but hae eternal life.
The wonders of this world. I guess my attempts in the novel will fall somewhere between the cartoon, the gospel and Washington Irving’s characterization of Sir Walter Scott.
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When Scrooge Macduck talks turkey about money, he sure sounds very American. But in Duck Tales his Scottish accent was heard. “Jump Start Me Heart, ladies!” In trying to recreate the Scottish voice of Catherine Gordon I try to her voice in my head. It was said of her son, the poet Lord Byron who had a burr under his proper English, “he had a voice like music.” I wish there was a recording of them both but they lived too early for that.
The Scots accent, like the bagpipes, can be charming or grating. There is no in[between.
When my character Richard loses his fiancée, everything shuts down. Of course that assumes that things were up and running. I am not sure that is the case. In reading Joyce Carol Oates arresting memoir, The Lost Landscape, she says that she could write about her late husband Raymond in A Widow’s Story, but “I am sorry, but I am not able to write about Ray here. I have tried–but it is just too painful, and too difficult. Words are like wild birds–they will come when they wish, not when they are bidden.” It is as if she wants words to come as she stretches her sentences. Certainly “painful” could imply “difficult.” Seeing before she really begins, “the abrupt end,” of the quixotic attempts to write of her loss, she caves in.
- This woman who writes on average two monumental books a year, will take Shakespeare’s advice, “to give sorrow words,” by embedding grief in fiction and in other strikingly jarring memories. Richard, on the other hand, goes about the world trying to put things in order. This he can do though the struggles to keep them this way is relentless. For both the great writer, and the burgeoning fictional character, there will always be something behind the wall a step away.
Still looking to find a way to capture Catherine Byron’s Scottish way of talking for the journal which plays a crucial role in my novel. In reading Washington Irving’s account of visiting Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford, I see that he uses ye, yere and hout man to recreate Sir Walter’s voice. The search isk on.