Saturday, September 26, 2009


Upbeat Meyrink, Lowdown Roden

The last time I went to Prague was a few weeks before the old country of Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It was the middle of winter and very cold. I was already aware that Prague had produced a dozen or so giants of literature, but I didn't yet know that Gustav Meyrink was one of them. I worshipped Kafka, Hrabal, Čapek, Hašek and especially Nesvadba. It was only after leaving Prague that I began reading Meyrink; and then I gradually came to realise that an opportunity had been lost, for it seems to me now that Meyrink is perhaps a better guide to the complex symmetries of that labyrinthine city than any of those other gentlemen, not in terms of geography or culture but in ambience and atmosphere.

Seventeen years have passed since then. A few weeks ago I was mildly astonished to be asked by a Romanian publisher to write a story for a Meyrink tribute anthology, Cinnabar's Gnosis. I jumped at the chance, even though this meant temporarily abandoning work on my 500th story. My Meyrink tribute story is finished and has been accepted for the anthology. One paradoxical result of this situation is that I have completed my 501st story before my 500th. Creative accounting will now be necessary to balance the books... but at least there's a precedent for non-linearity in my evolving corpus -- a few years ago the wonderful Michael Bishop very generously wrote my 612th story, to save me the trouble.

Of course, when I say that my story has been 'accepted' it's always possible that the Romanian publisher might later 'do a Roden' and pretend he hasn't accepted it, but I doubt it. He seems a man of honour and integrity... Doing a Roden (or to Rodenize; verb) is to act in a hypocritical, nepotistic style; to scheme and bully at every opportunity. The origins of this word can be found in the behaviour of the two most devious editors I have worked with in twenty years of writing fiction. A league seems to be forming against them: I smell the beginnings of a downfall. And despite the proverb, it's the lowdown who fall the furthest...

Excellent news! Who lnows, one day I may be invited to write a tribute story to you! If not, I can write your 700th story...
I googled Roden, but only found a shady black country estate agent!
Thanks Steve. I still haven't seen a copy of your book. I was hoping Adam would send me a free one... If you have your copies will you take a photograph and post it on your blog?
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