Talking Heads

The George Inn, Southwark

The George Inn, Southwark

Had a wonderful Monday evening talking shop with Ros Barber, Jane Draycott and Jenny Lewis at The George, Southwark. The third meeting of the Medieval-Renaissance Women’s Drinking Society.  To be honest, not much drinking goes on since we all have to manage work and (extended) families but the talking is wonderful. We’re at various stages of reworking texts written by long-dead men. Jane’s translation of Pearl is out there and has been reprinted; Ros’s The Marlowe Papers is out next year; mine, Jenny’s and Jay’s (the wonderful Jay Bernard) are still in progress.

Jane talked eloquently about the difficulties of positioning yourself in relation to the original text: do you sit behind it, beside it? How much of your own voice and how much of theirs. She was talking about translation but it’s relevant to any form of rewriting. It made so much sense to me. And we both talked about taking on a strong male voice and the challenges it posed. I came away feeling invigorated and ready to take the scarey step of pasting all the polished pieces into a file called ‘Fragments’. Still too superstitious to give it a final name. Roving Mic is still the working title…

Talking of talking heads, I’ve started working on the Monk’s Tale which is not one story but 19 stories following a monotonous tragic trajectory. Not a great read and, like my version of The Parson’s Tale, decided to create an overriding narrative. It’s in its early stages and in prose and I seriously need to revisit some Alan Bennett. In the Summer I bought both the Talking Heads book and CD and spent a couple of weeks completely immersed in both. Stunning stuff, clever, witty, moving and more risque than I imagined. It reminded me that to simulate speech you can get away with leaving a lot of words unsaid. Reminded me that speech leaves a lot unsaid.

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