Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A novel about a writer (not) writing a novel

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Today I took the day off – I did not write, I did not translate, I did not teach. I did not plot, I did not outline, I did not pitch.
I slept late this morning, I went to the supermarket soon after lunchtime, and then I spent the day reading.
And if it is true that I feel guilty – because money is tight, and I need to work work work to cover my bills – on the other hand it is indispensable to pause once in a while. I already talked about this in the past: fatigue, burnout, anxiety fits… it is not fun.
You have to learn to pace yourself, like Billy Joel used to sing.

74b61c034e9d8767fc607094155e7c1eSo today I picked up Scarlett Thomas’ Our Tragic Universe. Now this is curious, because I bought this book something like five years ago if not more, and then I had never opened it. It was probably the blurb of the Italian edition, that quoted Harry Potter and painted Thomas as a sort of J.K. Rowling for grown ups.
It was naive of me – back then Italian publishers would have marketed Tom Clancy reprints as “Harry Potter for Grown Ups!”, but really, I can’t stand being treated like a moron by a publisher1.
Anyway, the book waited in my emergency book stash I think I mentioned in the past. So I opened the box, took the Thomas book out and slipped in a space opera and a fantasy novel.
So now I’m roughly half-way through and I’m liking what I am reading. I have to kick myself sometimes because I am reading it “as a writer”, that is, paying a lot of attention to style, structure and technique, but the book is fun anyway – and makes you wonder where Thomas is trying to go.
It is a novel about writing – among other things – and it does work fine with my current mood.
It is also curious (and vaguely disquieting) to find a book about synchronicity and weird coincidences that features a writer (check), barely making a living (check), bills piling up (check) working with a small publisher (check), living in a backwater place by the river (check) and in a very damp house (check).
In the novel, the author (she’s called Meg) is trying to work on a “serious novel” while churning out thrillers and science fiction – which is uncanny, considering I took a pause last week from my thriller and fantasy churning to start outlining a “serious novel” for a “serious publisher”.
But what the heck – coincidences do happen.
three-bean-vanilla-iceAnd who knows, this weird rambling book with the puffy, cushion-like cover and the black-lined pages, the book I buried in a box for five years, might turn out to be bringing me luck.
For certain, it brought me a nice day of quiet.
And that’s a wonderful treat in itself – more or less like the vanilla ice cream I bought at the supermarket, and I ate with a dusting of ground cinnamon (but not like in the photo here – I’m a rough sort of guy, so I ate it directly from the box).


  1. some might say that I should get used to, because I’m a writer, that’s the way publishers treat writers, but what can I say? I’m a contrarian. 
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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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