A chance early morning trip into a book store has led to a very good start to the year indeed. When you find an author you can’t help but be drawn to, it can be agony waiting for them to pen their next instalment. In some ways I am always glad to ‘discover’ an author for myself a little further into their career, as it gives me plenty of back catalogue options to catch up on and helps to fill the long gaps in between new stories.
This morning’s happy accident was even better, on discovering the new novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, to be part of the writer’s previous writings on Barcelona, most particularly, Sempere and Sons bookshop. The two previous instalments of the serial, full of curiosity and drama, had certainly left me sad to see (in some respects), peace descend over the lives of the characters involved. So with some small satisfaction it is delightful to meet with a further chapter in their lives.
Some novels seem to wrap up the storyline a little too neatly, full of optimism, we are left to hope their lives continue with that ever clichéd phrase of a ‘happy ever after’. But we know this is seldom the case. Life is rarely without incident. Admittedly, soap opera seems to take this notion to the other extreme in the demand for more drama. For characters in those worlds, staying within those communities will inevitably mean that one bad turn leads on to another. Yet this is something novels are able to negotiate with a little more success. We seem more able to believe that there has been peace for Daniel Sempere for 12 months duration. Whilst missing those inevitable daily ups and downs the everyday provides most of us with, such serials do help to remove the myth of a perfect life following the tragedy or difficulties encountered within those 250 or so pages. It is not surprising that some authors have challenged and tried to continue the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, feeling that, Elizabeth and Darcy would not continue their lives quietly or without a few more escapades (particularly if Elizabeth’s siblings are ever to be involved!).
Going back to that discovery in the bookshop, we can also find more pleasant surprises along the way. The ups tend to be forgotten, and we know that, to write of those alone would seem not only un-dramatic but also arrogant: a so seeming ‘look how good my life is’ which most of us would generally sneer at. The pleasure of such an unexpected find however, should not be overlooked. Simplistic and appealing to my bookish nature, it can be difficult to capture and remember these points in time as they get eluded by seemingly more important things. Immersive Theatre which can replicate such moments, signposting audience towards their sensory experience in these moments can help to remind us of these moments. Like a novel, the audience must be willing to keep travelling forwards, from one chapter to the next and, like any good book should do, leave the audience with a sense of satisfaction and slight longing to return. The difficulty we often face is that, once something is experienced it cannot be experienced for that first time ever again. The only way is to push the boundaries onwards and explore in that way. At a distance, we may once again be able to go back on that moment as a re-experience, which brings the pleasure of remembrance and a hint of familiarity, yet also excites us as perhaps it did that first time. A good sequel of a novel achieves this, and a sensory performance should try to do the same: a nudge towards what has passed, and a step toward the unknown: familiar and unfamiliar all at once.
To a Happy New Year with a good (re)beginning…