When I went to Iceland and Sweden a couple of years ago, I had already started formulating ideas for the novel I’m currently working on. As I travelled from place to place, I filled a notebook with thoughts, observations, snippets of scenes. These weren’t just for this story, but were also general responses to my surroundings, comments about the people I saw, descriptions of other stories I’d write… some of which, upon re-reading, conjure up detailed images of Iceland, and others that are now complete mysteries.
Anyway, I’m going over the notebook today to see what, if anything, is salvageable for the novel. The plot and characters have evolved quite a bit since 2009, so I’m not sure how much useful material I’ll get from this exercise — nevertheless, I am getting a few laughs at random quotes I’d jotted down along the way. Such as these, which I copied while investigating the evolution of Icelandic cursive script at Þjóðmenningarhúsið (The National Centre for Cultural Heritage “Culture House”) in Reykjavík. The margins of Icelandic manuscripts sometimes contain complaints by scribes, such as “writing bores me” and “the writing is bad because the ink is weak” — both of which crack me up. But this poor medieval scribe takes his lament even further:
O fortunate reader, wash your hands and touch this book so as to turn the pages softly and keep your fingers at a good distance from the letters. No one who is not a scribe believes that it is work. O how difficult it is to be a scribe: it dulls the eyes, constricts the kidneys and torments all the joints as well. Three fingers write, the whole body suffers…
As I sit here, hunched over a desk that is too low, on a chair that lists to the left, feeling the onset of RSI in my wrists from so much typing, I totally feel this dude’s pain.