Life Work

In a 2009 issue of the Boston Review, a piece by John Crowley about Nicholson Baker’s novel The Anthologist begins beneath a black-and-white photograph of spent matches lying on a page of text. The photograph is one of mine: I’m credited in tiny letters at its right-hand side. The page belonged to an outsized copy of Arno Schmidt’s Evening Edged in Gold that I was never in any danger of finishing. The matches were my wife’s: by then I had smoked my last cigar.

Technically, I am a published photographer, essayist and poet, though none of those publications amounted to much. The photo above is one one of a dozen or so that others found via Flickr & asked if they could reproduce. Most of the requests were for on-line use, but a couple found their way into print. No money ever changed hands, but at least in the case of the Boston Review, they were kind enough to send me a copy of the magazine in which they used the shot.

‘Essayist’ is an over-generous descriptor to cover the pair of blog posts of mine that were reworked into a article published in a magazine (whose name I’ve long forgotten) that only ever ran for a few issues. A very brief book review of mine also ended up in a print publication at some point. None of the above had I actively sought out, whereas with the poetry there had been a deliberate action on my part - in ‘94 I sent three or four poems off to a local Cardiff free-sheet who had invited submissions, and they chose to print two of them. The sheet may have been free, but I was sent a nominal payment: the one and only time I’ve gained any financial recompense for my ‘creative’ endeavours.

Going back to John Crowley, I recently acquired a copy of the epically-delayed twenty-fifth fortieth anniversary edition of his novel Little, Big. It’s a beautiful thing, almost too big a Little, Big for my needs, whereas the mass-market paperback edition I’d once owned had been too little. I loved the book when I was nineteen yet have not gone back to it since: what might I make of it now?