The Reason Why

Daylight saving is now with us and we have the light of the evening to enjoy. The cost of this, I discovered recently, is that it gives Amanda more opportunity to beguile you with one of her little talks. I am not sure why she feels the need to confront us with our failings from time to time or why the mood always seems to come upon her when she is feeling most relaxed, with a glass of chardonnay in her hand.

'Tell me,' she said, stepping towards me along the veranda, 'what's the purpose of this nonsense?'

I felt an urge to say that the whole point about nonsense was that it didn't have a purpose but I refrained. Better instead to pretend innocence or, at least, ignorance.

'What nonsense?'

'This web site thing.'

'Oh, you mean the Nectarine Project.'

'Is that what you call it? I won't ask why.'

In fact she said nothing at all for a few seconds. We stood together, almost companionably, looking at the garden. It was too much to hope that she would drop the subject, though.

'Why are you doing it?' she asked, turning to me.

'Why? Because I enjoy it, I guess.'

'Why the Internet? That little book of yours seems to be creating a bit of interest. Why aren't you writing another novel?'

'I'm a bit sick of novels.'

'Typical,' she said. 'As soon as you start to get a bit of recognition for something you go away and do something else.'

I was stung by this. Mostly because I felt the truth in it.

'I just want to try something new,' I said, realising before the words were even out that I was not exactly countering her observation. 'The Internet's a new medium. It needs new literary forms.'

She gave one of her more derisive snorts. 'The Internet's full of amateurs. A bunch of sad little idiots, desperate for attention, parading their egos about in blogs and on You Tube.'

'I'm not writing a blog.' I tried not to sound too defensive. 'At least, not any more.'

'What is it then?'

'I'm not sure,' I said. 'I'm just letting it grow.'

'A mess, in other words.'

'No. I don't think so. I think it's going to have shape and even structure. I can feel it there.'

She looked at me over the rim of her glass. I could see what she thought of that. I stumbled on.

'The Net's all about flexibility. Change and dynamism. And if the significance of art really is in the making, then it seems a perfect place for that to happen.'

'You call this thing Art, then, do you?'

'In the broadest sense. Why not?'

She didn't answer, just looked at me. I took her silence for acquiescence. What else was I to do?

'And the other thing about the Net is that it's both anonymous and public. And its based on the principle of caveat emptor. I can do what I like in my little private corner and people can come and look if they want to. I don't feel responsible for their reactions. I'm not asking them to pay money for something they mightn't like.'

'Amateur,' she said, as if I had proved her point.

'I'm not sure that's entirely a bad thing, though, is it? Amateurs do things for their own sake. Professionals offer a product or a service. The first seems a healthier attitude to me.'

'Well,' she said, 'I suppose you have a right to waste your time, if you want to.'

'What else is there to do with it?' I asked.

'Something useful? No, too much to hope for.' She turned and walked away.

1 October 2008


© Chris Else 2008