In the middle of 2016 I rediscovered what I’ll call Project Albatross: my post-apocalyptic novel written in 1990, a wild crazy drama laced with climate change and socio-political upheaval on the far side of Hubbert’s Peak.
My memory of the story played me somewhat false, however.
The storyline hangs together pretty well.
Some parts are written in present tense, some in the past.
Elements of the prose are lyrical as poetry – and just as obscure.
Other elements are clumsy – stilted dialogue, head-hopping, transitions awkwardly phrased.
My punctuation is wildly creative. From my current perspective, 25 years on, I can only wonder why I chose to use so many commas and semi-colons when the obvious thing to do is shut the flippin’ sentence off with a full stop and start a new one.
Literary paragraphs, running on and on without pause, without dialogue, without line breaks. Even when there’s a change of character speaking. I’ve read novels like that and given up on them halfway through (I’m looking at you, 2666).
Typing it out from longhand sheets where very little alterations have been made – and very few crossings-out – it’s like reading a story I once knew by heart. While I’ve forgotten the complexity of the story, and some of the iconography, sometimes a phrase leaps out at me from the page as if fresh in my memory and I know exactly how it ends, like a quotation or a prose poem.
Overall, I’m surprised at the scope of my ambition, even if the 25-years-ago version of me fails to deliver on some of that. Huh: everyone’s young once.
It’s also undeniably different from the novels I’ve written since.
Maybe that’s a good thing.