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JOSH WRITE BOOK

JOSH WRITE BOOK

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ACT VI:

Never Shall It Never Be

ACT VI:

Never Shall
It Never Be

by Joshua Humphreys

AUTHOR | GALLIVANTER | PANGOLIN

FIRST a much earlier part of this story’s many threads, for the fabric of woe that would continue to adorn my year was woven of the two women mentioned in Act V but also, more thickly and painfully, of someone whose first stitches were needled and knotted many years ago. 

   We met at the end of the longest relationship of my 20s, when I was already planning on spending half a year in Venice and Italy. The enchanting intensity of our courtship was forced into dissipation. We parted ways but stayed in contact. She wrote me letters whenever I stopped somewhere long enough to have an address, I called her whenever I realised that I could not like the girl that I was trying to like simply because she was not her.

    When I returned to Melbourne to launch Exquisite Hours she picked me up from the airport and we resumed what we had four years ago abandoned. She it was whose life informed Anaïs’ biography, she who shared my goosebumps when the novel’s soundtrack came on at the post office, she who became Hector’s high-school sweetheart in Grieve. And she it was, in that Bangkok swimming pool, with whom I had been in love all these years. So, subliminally, I had refused to make the necessary sacrifices—having a regular job, doing as I was told, et cetera, et cetera, happy times, et cetera—for my last two relationships.

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My Bangkok swimming pool,
backdrop to an entire year of writing, reading, and epiphanising.

    In constant contact with her while I was in India, I realised in Bangkok that the chief source of my melancholy was that she and I were not together. Overwhelmed with certainty I called her in the pool and asked, What if I came home—what if I moved home? She said she never dreamed that such a day might come and was elated that it had. She would meet me in Melbourne and we would talk through our future. 

   So I arrived home to write the new wellness comedy novel and to see about a girl.

   In an emotional exchange I told her that I wanted to start and commit to a relationship with her. She said that though her work had taken her to Adelaide, it would be between us never a case of never, only a matter of when. She misquoted Fitzgerald to me, “I love you and that’s the beginning and end of everything,” and together we resolved to figure out our When. Both elated that we would pursue what had for six years been abeyant, she promised to on her flight back to Adelaide write me a letter outlining all that she felt and hoped.

   The next day her line, playing over and over again in my head, was by my brain Shakespearised. “It will never be a case of never, only a matter of when,” became in a moment, “Never shall it never be but when,”—an almost perfect iambic pentameter. This process may occur to the reader as odd. Shakespeare is the fourth-most frequently quoted author in my Commonplace Books. He forms no small part of my mindset and quite a large one of my vocabulary. And with the morphèd line playing unceasingly in my head I thought that my life for years now had been rawly chaotic and beset with caprice. Having returned to Melbourne after such a long time I realised too that the superficiality of everyone I met, overheard, saw—could be construed as a return to the automatic living which Shakespeare’s lesser characters inflict on his soliloquisers. 

   A new and foolish idea now embedded itself in my enthusiasm. What if Shakespeare had lived today and had for his material the 21st century—his language and poetic conventions used to explore the actions and feelings of a people whose language is best suited to expressing the form of their desired latte? That single line, “Never shall it Never be but When,” now bore a new story. My very first handwritten note for it was this:

“Two Acts, the first a comedy, the second a tragedy—two sets of friends made to fall in love by a malicious and devious older brother.”

​“Two Acts, the first a comedy, the second a tragedy—two sets of friends made to fall in love by a malicious and devious older brother.”

    The outline was to occupy my last Australian summer. For a month I sat in St Kilda cafes and eavesdropped on the conversations of the wealthiest and emptiest people to which I could be exposed. I worked the story back and forth and staffed it with characters, one of my oldest and most ingrained pieces of writing advice still defining my process:

“On the first page of the file put down the outline of a novel of your times enormous in scale and work on the plan for two months. Take the central point of the file as your big climax and follow your plan backward and forward from that for another three months. Then draw up something as complicated as a continuity from what you have and set yourself a schedule.”

              FITZGERALD

“On the first page of the file put down the outline of a novel of your times enormous in scale and work on the plan for two months. Take the central point of the file as your big climax and follow your plan backward and forward from that for another three months. Then draw up something as complicated as a continuity from what you have and set yourself a schedule.”

                                               FITZGERALD

   Still no letter had arrived. I asked the girl if she had written it. She said she was too busy to do so. Another month passed and by Christmas she had ghosted me. No outline, in any form, of her feelings or her hopes, had been forthcoming. I asked her twice for some word—any word—on what she was thinking. She simply stopped replying.

    Distinctly do I remember lying face down on soft white carpet for hours on end, wondering if I had done something foolish, if I had been doing things foolishly—if I had done something wrong and had been doing things incorrectly. Three times in two years I had put my heart on the line, had rearranged my life and returned to places in which I am unhappy. Three times had I been met with misunderstanding, scorn, and silence. 2017 had hitherto been poop. It turned now to typhoid.

    For weeks I was confused, angry, listless. Unable to work, I told the girl whose aloofness had already twice in the preceding years caused me anguish that I never again wished to have anything to do with her and I threw myself fully into poetry. A dear friend, the woman to whom Grieve is dedicated, was told about my newest folly and offered to me as on office her beach box. What better place, she thought, in which to write a Shakespearean romcom, and one that I now would set in Brighton.

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A Shakespearean romcom,
written in a beach box—the most perfect office I've ever had.

     Each morning I went down to the sea, opened up the beach box, and began my day listening to hard bop, a preciously rare genre for which I have an especial enthusiasm. Fast, chaotic, and seemingly random, though always held together by a single melody, it is the music that best reflects the workings of my mind. Existing as a living style for less than a decade, there are fewer than perhaps 10 albums on which it is played purely. And when Art Blakey and Clifford Brown had jazzed my brain into the right poetic space I would look out over the water and blissfully without internet or electricity I spent the better part of a summer writing a play about a Shakespearean villain who conspires to have two pairs of friends fall in love with each other solely so that he can then break their hearts—entirely in poetry, and in no less a meter than iambic pentameter.

   Myself free and clear of romantic entanglements I decided that I would as soon as possible move back to Vietnam and there finish and release this new work. One of my closest friends, being flown around the United States by tech companies for job interviews, said that he was sick of having to do so and would come and live with me there. So I booked a flight out and agonised over every drawn-out hour that existed between me and Vietnam.


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Collages and colour-palettes: my nostasialgia had grown almost to the point of obsession.

    For two months my daily routine was a morning of loud jazz, the beach box, poetry—then a long afternoon and even longer evening of nostasialgia. I spent my nights going through my thousands of photographs of Southeast Asia, sorting them, arranging them, compiling them even into colour palettes. Then the week before I was to leave I got an email from the ghost.

    She had been following me all summer through a decoy social media account. Seeing that I was leaving for Vietnam in a week she said that she had made a mistake in her ghosting. She returned to Melbourne to apologise and said that she in fact wanted to start the relationship for which I had flown home. I likened her then to a cruel long-lined fisherman, who again and again had let me swim, hook in mouth, so far from the shore that I thought I was free. And just when I was at furthest, happy, reach, she would yank and reel me back in. I apologised in return and said that I would not again rearrange my life for her and was leaving for Vietnam. She said that she would organise her work-leave to allow her to visit me there.

    Returned to Hoi An, my friend and I moved into the top floor of a guest house and I found and bought the motorbike that still, even at a distance of 9000 kilometres, warms my thighs and makes race my heart. Her name is Briseis. She has broken down in the literal middle of nowhere, she has refused to start when time has been pressing, she has gone dark in the latest hours of the night. I have had to push her for hours uphill, go without her for months, lavish her, bathe her, let her go.

      Still I madly love her.


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The Author on Briseis, or, in his natural habitat. I can conceive of no feeling more exhilarating than riding through the mountains of central and northern Vietnam.

    Together my friend and I worked among the rice fields and the riverscapes, wandered in the heat and the jungle, caroused with the village locals and the beach bum Westerners. He was elated to not be a corporate lacky and I revelled in the coming months of work that were my freedom and in knowing that the girl with whom I still wanted to settle down soon would visit me. He and I had found an even greater permutation of Vietnamese perfection, and we knew it. It was a golden age acknowledged while it was being lived—the rarest of all human things. 

    Six weeks into our Arcadian spring the girl told me that she would not be travelling for my sake. I replied that I could no longer tell if I actually loved her or if I just wanted her to love me back, and I broke it off for good.

   I know of no other comedy novelists, living or dead. Comedians confuse frustration with unhappiness. Novelists conflate ambiguity with depth. The closest in aim and style to me is Evelyn Waugh and from all that I know of him, and of me, I can state in earnest that the personal lives of writers are rich with torrid stories and material for amusingly tragic books but barren of loving kindness.

"I do not want any more experiences in life. I have quite enough bottled and carefully laid in the cellar, some still ripening, most ready for drinking, a little beginning to lose its body. … I have succeeded, too, in dissociating myself very largely with the rest of the world. I am not impatient of its manifest follies and don’t want to influence opinions or events, or to expose humbug or anything of that kind. I don’t want to be of service to anyone or anything. I simply want to do my work as an artist."

      WAUGH

"I do not want any more experiences in life. I have quite enough bottled and carefully laid in the cellar, some still ripening, most ready for drinking, a little beginning to lose its body. … I have succeeded, too, in dissociating myself very largely with the rest of the world. I am not impatient of its manifest follies and don’t want to influence opinions or events, or to expose humbug or anything of that kind. I don’t want to be of service to anyone or anything. I simply want to do my work as an artist."

      WAUGH

    I realised 10 weeks into my time in Hoi An that I had somehow lost my passport. Unable to fly domestically without one I had to take an 18-hour night bus to Hanoi. There, the new passport would take 10 days to process and the Australian government refuses to use Vietnam’s postal service so the new passport could not be delivered to me. With a choice between 10 days in Hanoi or another night bus, I returned to my beloved Nam Dinh and its otherworldly churches. From there I took another 18-hour night bus back to my fishing village and when the passport was ready yet another 18-hour night bus to go and pick it up.

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Nam Dinh: if ever you wish to feel as though you've died and gone to actual—not ideal—heaven, I recommend the countryside of this northeastern province.

   Such is the sometime frustration of living in Vietnam. It is only when apart from it that I see that the inefficiency is necessarily intertwined with the beauty and long to endure both. Having spent so much money on night buses I could not now afford to fly down to Hoi An so I took yet another night bus and through my sixtieth hour in a sleeper seat read a unique and affirming book called ‘Twelve Against the Gods.’

"We, like the eagles, were born to be free. Yet we are obliged, in order to live at all, to make a cage of laws for ourselves and to stand on the perch. We are born as wasteful and unremorseful as tigers; we are obliged to be thrifty, or starve, or freeze. We are born to wander, and cursed to stay and dig. And so, the adventurous is our first choice."

                        BOLITHO

"We, like the eagles, were born to be free. Yet we are obliged, in order to live at all, to make a cage of laws for ourselves and to stand on the perch. We are born as wasteful and unremorseful as tigers; we are obliged to be thrifty, or starve, or freeze. We are born to wander, and cursed to stay and dig. And so, the adventurous is our first choice."

                      BOLITHO      

    That year saw the coincidence of my father’s 60th birthday with my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary and together we organised a family vacation in Bali. Working on the play, whose title had been settled upon as To Save a Forest Virgin, it occurred to me that if I commissioned from my brother a cover for the book, and I hurried to finish its manuscript on time, I could bring copies of the finished product to Bali and both Sam and I could sign them.

    In the cover he now created Sam again excelled himself—bettered even his work on Grieve—and, in incorporating elements from the play’s setting and story, and in illustrating its pages throughout, To Save a Forest Virgin grew closer still to the ideal of gesamtkunstwerk at which I loosely aim in all that I do.

Joshua Humphreys—writer, gallivanter, pangolin. Author of Exquisite Hours, Grieve, and The Creative Art of Wishfulness, with trusty green pens and peacock mug in hand

Detail from the cover of To Save a Forest Virgin, artwork by Samuel Humphreys.

    As well, I realised that rather than setting the old new novel’s wellness retreat on a Thai island, I could use the Bali trip for research, and could—and should—set its retreat in Ubud, the world’s deluded capital of freebooting yoga-clowns.

     I hastened to finish the play and compiled for it a soundtrack composed of the very music that had facilitated its writing and on our first family vacation in 15 years Sam and I sat down—playwright and illustrator—to together sign the pre-ordered edition of To Save a Forest Virgin. I then stayed on in Bali for another month to research locations and incidents for the old new novel and found on the noticeboards of vegan cafes and in the conversations of bare-footed nincompoops enough material to write several comedies about unwellness. There were men in sarongs needing five takes to have satisfactorily filmed their praying; there were women clandestinely dropping their clothing to be photographed in swimwear at shrines; and above all more variations on made-up nonsensical new-age cowboying than my imagination could ever have by itself invented—all flocked to such a beautiful island in order to find themselves, and in flocking, destroying.

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Playwright and illustrator,

for the first time ever my brother and I sat down to sign our work together. 


    I took the signed copies of the play with me to London and sent them out into the world then opened the book up to a general release. The play’s success did not parallel that of my last two novels. Shakespeare, I realised, was a bad choice. I returned to Venice to give another season of my Venice tour and there had the idea of turning all that I knew of the world’s most beautiful city into a standalone work of history. Hidden away in a Cannaregio apartment I between tours filled the temporal gaps which the physical tour necessarily left and took the work's title from Ruskin:

"Whether God ever gave the Venetians what they thought He had given, does not matter to us; He gave them at least joy and peace in their imagined treasure, more than we have in our real ones."

"Whether God ever gave the Venetians what they thought He had given, does not matter to us; He gave them at least joy and peace in their imagined treasure, more than we have in our real ones."

    Then I returned to Vietnam and Briseis to write Imagined Treasures, my splendid history of Venice. That book released, I moved back to Melbourne where I thought that To Save a Forest Virgin might be performed as a physical play. I sent it to every theatre company and producer to whom I could finagle an introduction and, as with literary agents and Exquisite Hours, I was returned silence. Ubiquitous, unseeing, silence.

    But with the coming of the new year I would at last be able to sit down to write my still-untitled wellness novel. I hired a car with which to move my few possessions from my childhood closet to a tiny Windsor apartment. I inserted into my laptop the SD card containing all the photos and videos from my hellish trip to India and started work on that part of the story. I one day drove somewhere with that laptop on the passenger seat and braked a little too hard. The laptop flew into the footwell and the SD card snapped in half. I had lost all of my India research. Unable to finish the novel's first draft without it, I would have to go back to India. Hellish, stinking, health-depleting, Hitler-Menswear India. And in order to be able to afford to do so I would have to open the book, whose first draft I had not even started, to pre-orders.

    I had the Bangkok open and the Bali middle ready to write and in the last week of the year I found a chapter in Osbert Sitwell that strikes me still as the best description of a writer’s life:

"…the quotidian miseries and splendours of a life attached to the inkpot, the many months spent at a table, the hours when every disturbance is furiously resented, the other, more occasional moments when every interruption is welcome, the evenings, when an author looks on his work and finds it good, or those frequent nights when it seems to him to have fallen unbelievably short of what he had intended, the inflations of self- conceit and the agonies of self-reproach, the days when everything grows to giant proportions because it has meaning, the afternoons when all dwindles to pygmy and shows none? What of the racked and sleepless hours before the dawn?"

"…the quotidian miseries and splendours of a life attached to the inkpot, the many months spent at a table, the hours when every disturbance is furiously resented, the other, more occasional moments when every interruption is welcome, the evenings, when an author looks on his work and finds it good, or those frequent nights when it seems to him to have fallen unbelievably short of what he had intended, the inflations of self- conceit and the agonies of self-reproach, the days when everything grows to giant proportions because it has meaning, the afternoons when all dwindles to pygmy and shows none? What of the racked and sleepless hours before the dawn?"

    Then halfway through writing the Bali section I left the inkpot and returned to Tamil Nadu. I flew first to Bangkok, where I rewrote the book’s open with as much fidelity as possible to that city’s splendidly mayhemic streets. I then braced myself for India, the place whose very air had been unbreathable. I returned to Trichy, and the litters of dying puppies still were under every other truck. I returned to Kumbakonam, and saw a man masturbating at a lake. But I had asked the producers who had optioned Exquisite Hours to write to the hotel in which much of the last third of the book would take place. They told them who I was and what I was doing there and in Madurai I was and unspeakably relieved to stay in the Heritage hotel. I spent every moment I could in its sublime pool, knowing precisely what had to be visited for the book, what documented, what physically worked out. I found a temple submerged by rain, watched an elephant procession through one of the holiest places on earth, found a hilltop hotel stalked by peacocks. And I did not hate India.

The Author in India: on my first visit to Tamil Nadu, to research my new wellness novel, pretty much only the temples were pleasant.

A Return to Tamil Nadu to re-research The Creative Art of Wishfulness—the genesis of which can be read in full the previous act of this story.

    I was another month in Melbourne to finish the first draft and struck upon the book's title. The name of its main female protagonist is Alexandra Wishart, who absolutely of all yogaclowns would incorporate her own name into her own creativity and wellness retreat. So it, and the novel, became The Creative Art of WishfulnessI returned again to Briseis to rewrite the manuscript and to rewrite the manuscript, and to rewrite, rewrite—and rewrite the manuscript. Necessarily a solitary profession, I find that the best remedy to writing's loneliness and working-in-the-dark is to read other novelists, and especially to read them on writing. I reinstituted my morning writing routine and in the afternoons—in saunas, through rice fields, on the stools of makeshift coffee shops—I spent three months in the company of Hemingway, Sitwell, Fitzgerald, James, and Waugh as I rewrote The Creative Art of Wishfulness.

HEMINGWAY:

"You must be prepared to work always without applause."

"I like to write. Which is even worse. That makes it from a disease into a vice. Then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. An obsession is terrible. "

"Only two things you can do for an artist. Give him money and show his stuff."


SITWELL:

"Every novelist worthy of the name, not only possesses an individual style, but has worked out an individual theory on the writing of the novel."

"Not seldom the author may repine, crying aloud in his desert of intolerable anguish, in the wakeful darkness of word-haunted nights, when settling once more to his toil in the morning, or in one of those periods of nervous exploitation and subsequent exhaustion which are bound to be his lot, that he wishes he were a carpenter, a watchmaker, a farrier."


FITZGERALD:

"I have lived so long within the circle of this book and with these characters that often it seems to me that the real world does not exist but that only these characters exist, and, however pretentious that remark sounds, it is an absolute fact – so much so that their glees and woes are just exactly as important to me as what happens in life."

"Rewrite from mood. Has become stilted with rewriting. Don’t look. Rewrite from mood."


JAMES:

"Remember that every life is a special problem which is not yours but another’s and content yourself with the terrible algebra of your own."


WAUGH:

"In my future books there will be two things to make them unpopular: a preoccupation with style and the attempt to represent man more fully."

"Whom then can I hope to please? Perhaps those who have the leisure to read a book word by word for the interest of the writer’s use of language; perhaps those who look to the future with black forebodings and need more solid comfort than rosy memories."

HEMINGWAY:

"You must be prepared to work always without applause."

"I like to write. Which is even worse. That makes it from a disease into a vice. Then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. An obsession is terrible. "

"Only two things you can do for an artist. Give him money and show his stuff."



SITWELL:

"Every novelist worthy of the name, not only possesses an individual style, but has worked out an individual theory on the writing of the novel."

"Not seldom the author may repine, crying aloud in his desert of intolerable anguish, in the wakeful darkness of word-haunted nights, when settling once more to his toil in the morning, or in one of those periods of nervous exploitation and subsequent exhaustion which are bound to be his lot, that he wishes he were a carpenter, a watchmaker, a farrier."



FITZGERALD:

"I have lived so long within the circle of this book and with these characters that often it seems to me that the real world does not exist but that only these characters exist, and, however pretentious that remark sounds, it is an absolute fact – so much so that their glees and woes are just exactly as important to me as what happens in life."

"Rewrite from mood. Has become stilted with rewriting. Don’t look. Rewrite from mood."



JAMES:

"Remember that every life is a special problem which is not yours but another’s and content yourself with the terrible algebra of your own."



WAUGH:

"In my future books there will be two things to make them unpopular: a preoccupation with style and the attempt to represent man more fully."

"Whom then can I hope to please? Perhaps those who have the leisure to read a book word by word for the interest of the writer’s use of language; perhaps those who look to the future with black forebodings and need more solid comfort than rosy memories."

    I moved again to London to both finalise the book and pursue another relationship. I spent a month rewriting the proofing copy among the colonnades of Queens’ House and in August received the ready-to-read pre-ordered copies that had in the first place enabled the book's writing. I was a fortnight in signing and inscribing and brown-paper-wrapping them then, most strangely, I received a message from the yogaclown whose sexual harassment and deluded business practises had long ago sparked the novel's story.

The Creative Art of Wishfulness—its cover designed to resemble a bag of Indian concrete—was a novel that took two years to live and as many to get around to writing.

    Into The Creative Art of Wishfulness I had inserted a kind of mantra by which the book's female main character claims to live: "Your life is your art, your art is your life." Stating that she in fact owned the copyright on the phrase, the yogaclown was threatening to sue me. Here was I, an artist, transforming my life into a comedy novel—my art—and a self-proclaimed life-coach/creative-writing-guru/all-round-life-expert, whose mantra urged people to do just that, was threatening to sue me for doing so.

      It was too too perfect.

"The adventurer must fight the dead weight of all the possessors, across whose interwoven rights the road to freedom lies. If he fails he is a mere criminal. One third of all criminals are nothing but failed adventurers."

BOLITHO

"The adventurer must fight the dead weight of all the possessors, across whose interwoven rights the road to freedom lies. If he fails he is a mere criminal. One third of all criminals are nothing but failed adventurers."

BOLITHO

     I consider that moment a comedic crowning of all that I had accomplished, a fantastic illumination of the sarcastic universe in which we live, the most perfect joke about the dishonest thinking, the nominal living, the snake-oil-peddling—against which I had been for so long labouring—and the joke was being told by the joke itself. She, a possessor, was threatening to indict me as a criminal.

     But there I was. From the beginning of the second Act of this story, when I for the first time went to Hoi An solely to write a book, until the completion of The Creative Art of Wishfulness, I had spent a full third of my adult life in Vietnam. A fifth of it had been spent in London, slightly more than in Melbourne or Bangkok, and I spent in total half a year in Venice passing on all that I knew of her history and her art and made 4 visits to Siem Reap in order to research and perfect the opening of Grieve. I had written in six years four novels, a Shakespearean romcom and a history of Venice—and for half a decade had not merely survived but lived off my writing.

       What is to be gleaned from all this adventure?

      I know that I too often chased love. This story contains four instances of my moving countries to pursue a relationship. The mobility of my life might account for much of this but I know of no proverbial equivalent to a dog returning four times to its vomit nor a sport which allows more than three chances before disqualifying a competitor.

     I accept that in the preceding pseudo-dramas of my personal life I was not ever the only person hurt. But into each successive attempt at love I have put greater efforts at truth and those efforts have been returned with increasing intensities of pain. I sometimes lapse into thinking myself an inadvertent agent of chaos; it seems to have followed me around the world as though it were my wake. Fitzgerald twice remarked upon this writerly phenomenon:

"Writers can perpetuate trouble as no one else can."
"A writer’s temperament is continually making him do things he can never repair."

"Writers can perpetuate trouble as no one else can."
"A writer’s temperament is continually making him do things he can never repair."

    But I neither court nor cultivate trouble and have not anywhere sought damage. Still they have been my private lot. Part of my self-imposed exile is due to feeling that though I must live and love intensely not everybody’s heart can survive intact after being so exposed—least of all mine. I also am unable to see clearly as to whether my amorous decisions have been a subconscious attempt to obtain material for books.

Author writer Joshua Humphreys on Briseis, his Suzuki GN125, in Vietnam.

Inadvertent agent of chaos, or hopeless romantic whose life's work is not, according to Byron, 'requisite to form the happiness of any woman'?

I do not know the answer, I just have to write books.

    Each of my works has been in some measure based on my own experience. The more harrowing the experience the stronger its mould of the story. I said elsewhere that overjoyedly would I write a novel of hope, love, and goodness—but that I have insufficient acquaintance with such things. There is though another novel.

   I have had the outline of its story for three years and have been amassing jokes especially for it for four. It is the first book that I have conceived entirely apart from my own anguish and I look forward to being able to sit down to write it, free from any transfigurations of my own disquiet. Verily a sitcom in prose, I hope to start work on that novel at the beginning of the new year.

    Finishing this story in Greece at the end of 2020, a year that could hardly have been more stultifying to a writer who works as I do—as well the first year since 2013 in which I wrote no book—I can admit that happily till the end of time would I divide each year between Southeast Asia—riding Briseis from the rice paddies to the beach, into and along the hot mountains, into Cambodia and Thailand—and Europe, replenishing in Greece and Italy the wellsprings of my mind when not enjoying fully the fast-living freedom of a human soul.

"Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it. Financial security then is a great help as it keeps you from worrying. Worry destroys the ability to write."

HEMINGWAY

"Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it. Financial security then is a great help as it keeps you from worrying. Worry destroys the ability to write."

HEMINGWAY

     I have been happiest and most productive when arriving somewhere with a new book to write. There is a potential in that movement that electrifies everything I see and do and then is the only time I feel truly alive. But in every act of this story that energetic flourishing and unworried writing has been quickly followed by dwindling finances and rising anxiety. I have soon had to hasten the completion of the book and at last bring forward its release in order not to starve. 

    I hope in 2021 to put in place a system of patronage that ends that cycle of enthusiastic bubble and inartistic bust—one in which readers who would have another comedy novel brought into the world make possible its writing as they watch it being written. Only then will The Peter File (its tentative title) receive the happily detached and unworried process that its story (more on which shall soon be revealed) deserves.

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After years of taking material for my work directly from my own life, 2021 shall hopefully, and very happily, be spent writing a sitcom-in-prose conceived apart from my own experience.

   As an endnote I should add that at the start of this year I flew from Melbourne to Bangkok with a 5-hour stopover in Adelaide. I contacted the girl whose thread opened this act and said that after all I would like to give her a copy of the entire play which her single line had inspired. She said that she would love to read it and would come to the airport in my layover. She never showed up. I, book and pen in hand, felt as a child whose parent had forgotten to pick them up from school. How, it might be asked, can someone live through so much turmoil and still aspire to happiness?

    My answer is that I have books to write. Beyond every kick in the nuts there lies another story, gallivants another character, waits another joke. And it is in the jokes that I find most manifest the beautiful order of our universe.

   There is also another entire act to the more personal aspect of this story. The relationship for which I had most recently moved to London soon would rapidly and viciously deteriorate, and the malice of an Instagram troll would turn my girlfriend into my stalker.

     But that episode is too raw to yet turn into an essay and so blindingly painful is it to think about that to do so would risk tainting with personal experience my next, abstractly and innocently conceived, comedy novel.

   That ordeal shall have to wait years to become Act VII, where probably it shall be called, “The Worst Year of My Entire Life."

          J.H., Greece, November 2020


    But that episode is too raw to yet turn into an essay and so blindingly painful is it to think about that to do so would risk tainting with personal experience my next, abstractly and innocently conceived, comedy novel.

     That ordeal shall have to wait years to become Act VII, where probably it shall be called, “The Worst Year of My Entire Life."

                                                         J.H., Greece, November 2020


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To Save A

FOREST

VIRGIN

Shakespeare meets Sex & The City
in modern-day Melbourne.

ACT V:
ENVENOMED INDIAN YOGACLOWNS

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JOSH WRITE BOOK.

JOSH WRITE BOOK.


From amateur stand-up
to professional comedy novelist—
Josh Write Book
is the full adventure of my going from 
a writer searching for his voice to a full-time working author

refining an entirely new literary genre.



From amateur stand-up to professional comedy novelist—
Josh Write Book retells the full adventure of my going
from a writer searching for his voice to a full-time working author

refining an entirely new literary genre—who occasionally dresses up as a mermaid.



Copyright 2021, JOSHVA HVMPHREYS