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With a story, let alone a novel, a common question posed to a writer is: Where did it come from? Often traces and links are sought between actual experience and the work as if they could not have come from any other source. And then the work is interpreted as another draft of a biography. If it was always true that experience feeds the imagination and ultimately the work, writers would have very little to say.

With Nine Avenues the impulse and then the forward force came from various places, from books, statements, from some experiences that were transformed into story.

“The Color of Stones” is a souvenir of being on Dunwich Beach in Suffolk. There is nothing much beautiful or remarkable about Dunwich Beach; pebbles on the seashore, the grey murky English Channel, and to the south, a power station wrecks the coastline view. In the Middle Ages it was a large port but since then the village has been taken by the North Sea. There is a nice pub in the remnants of the current village.

As unlikely as it may seem for a work of fiction, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason was the impetus for “Flights in Airless Space”: in how life would be less difficult without wind resistance; and “Transcendence”: where Kant says a happy life is fulfilled by knowledge.

“Written” started with the inscription on John Keats’s headstone, ‘whose name was writ in water…’ and the ideas of permanence and memory came into shape. It took firmer form with helping a friend move house and discovering the treasure of junk and dust that had to be cleaned away.

A Ravel piano piece started “Solitary Birds”. Later, hearing the birds near my apartment in the evenings, as they called out to each other across the sky, I thought this carried an idea.

As for the other stories, they are mostly from imagined situations, sentences and some past times, no doubt, that are integrated into all the experience, that seemed to hold my attention long enough to write and see what they had to say.

Guy Cranswick
2 January 2013

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