Your text in Granta is drawn from The Alphabet of Birds. In your email, you mention that different editions of this book of stories were prepared for the UK and South Africa. I’m curious to know what changes were made to navigate between the two readerships. Was it simply a case of turning the ‘robots’ into ‘traffic lights’ and so on, or were more fundamental changes made? I’ve just compared the two versions of your story ‘VNLS’ and I see that South African musical terms like marabi, kwela, mbaqanga and kwaito have survived unscathed. (I want to ask you about the place of music in your writing too, but perhaps we’ll get to that later.)
The practice of tailoring books for particular markets seems to be quite new. When I began to work as an editor thirty years ago, we sometimes debated whether a book needed a glossary or not, but the idea of rewriting a text to make it more accessible to a foreign readership never arose. The changes to your text are clearly small, but I’ve seen revised foreign editions that are substantially different to the originals. I suppose it’s tied up with a weakening sense of the text as definitive or sacrosanct, and a new conception of it as a dynamic, customized product. Recently I heard a writer on the radio referring to her books as a ‘range’, as if she were a fashion designer.
Another thing editors worry about is how to treat ‘foreign’ words in an English-language text. In the past, the convention was to italicize all words that weren’t standard English. This led to the odd situation where the very words that gave a South African book in English its local flavour were singled out as not belonging. Then editors and publishers became aware of the hierarchy created by this technical decision, and these days italics are often avoided entirely. This may burden some readers with a double take and a visit to the dictionary or Google, but it creates a more egalitarian textual universe. Or is it simply a blander, more marketable one? A potential buyer flipping through the book won’t be frightened off by the ‘difficult’ words.
A few months ago, Leon de Kock published a piece in the Mail & Guardian about the tension between the local and the global in South African fiction. More and more writers are ‘going global’, he says, and setting their books in other places. They are also using a more generic English, I think, which doesn’t smack too strongly of one culture and won’t offend a sensitive palate. According to De Kock, these decisions threaten to dissolve the category of ‘SA Lit’ entirely. Interestingly, he views Afrikaans writers as a special case: ‘Consider, for a moment, how strange the question of where to set one’s stories comes across to most Afrikaans writers.’ The implication is that most Afrikaans writers, whose readership is largely confined to South Africa, don’t even think about setting their stories elsewhere.
Someone reading your Granta extract might assume you are one of those writers. The setting and language are pungently local. In fact, your book presents a strikingly wide range of settings, moving with ease from Berlin to Tokyo to Milan to Cape Town. The story ‘War, Blossoms’ draws a range of locations together in a provocative way. The narrator’s Japanese friend Hisashi, whom he met in London, and with whom he travelled to Japan and Vietnam, arrives unexpectedly in South Africa. Despite the narrator’s resistance, Hisashi makes himself part of his life. The narrator must make a place, with difficulty, for the global, the exotic.
Although some of your stories are centrally concerned with belonging, I suspect that the question of locality is more interesting to my generation than yours. Does it matter whether you write from one place or many? Did you set out to produce a collection with a cosmopolitan sweep or did it just come out that way? Your position is complicated by the fact that your first language is a small one. You were able to bring the world home in Afrikaans, but if you are to go back out into the world, you need English. The shift to English is an index of social and political change in your book – as when the old farm ‘Twyfelsand’ becomes ‘Twilight Lodge’, a game farm for foreign hunters. But the book is not just about loss. Your restless, displaced South Africans are able to ‘join worlds together’, as you put it somewhere, and that is surely a gain.
To consider your last point first: recently, when I was writing a piece on translation, I had to think about why translating my own stories hadn’t felt too difficult. The reason might have been novice’s hubris, or the freedom one enjoys as an author-translator. But I think there’s more to it. Because the milieus of these stories are often foreign to Afrikaans, the language had to bend somewhat uncomfortably around them. The underground Berlin clubs in ‘A Master from Germany’ and the labyrinthine drug-induced impressions of London by a character in ‘Mother’s Quartet’ are not, for instance, realms that Afrikaans has really ventured into before. Hence, these stories seemed easier to translate than works that are deeply rooted in the South African landscape. Perhaps they were already straining at the Afrikaans chain, gravitating towards English, which has long been adapting to a great variety of textures.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that, increasingly, some continental authors whose work is read internationally tend to anticipate it being rendered into English, and that this is influencing their language. So, perhaps not only generic English results from the globalisation of readers’ markets, but also more anodyne (or ‘English-ready’) French or German. If you translate your own writing, the temptation to sterilize your language pre-emptively must surely be greater: like a simultaneous interpreter, you’re already playing the second language’s soundtrack in your mind while writing in the first.
Interestingly, in Afrikaans literature, the trend is the opposite. Novels by authors like Marlene van Niekerk or Ingrid Winterbach sometimes become archives for ‘difficult’ or vanishing Afrikaans words and expressions, or rhymes and songs with no obvious English equivalents. This may at first appear to inoculate the singularity of the Afrikaans text against infringement, but an exceptional translator like Michiel Heyns has of course managed to successfully translate a novel such as Van Niekerk’s Agaat.
As regards the UK/US edition of my book, changes were indeed quite superficial. The approach was to retain local usage except where it would be confusing. For instance, the story ‘Van’ was called ‘Die mobile’ in the Afrikaans edition, referring to the mobile clinic featuring in the story. To a British reader, this could sound like a mobile phone. Mobile phones remained ‘cell phones’ (South African and American usage). ‘SMS’ was chosen over ‘text message’, but ‘bakkie’ (Afrikaans and South African English) became ‘pickup truck’ (both American and British). German and French phrases were translated into English, or retained with added translations. Some Afrikaans words and phrases were retained, sometimes with translations. As regards italics: I would be hesitant to italicize words in other South African languages when using them in a South African English text, given the implied cultural chauvinism (or linguistic ‘othering’). To me, italicizing French and German however seems less problematic.
Leon de Kock, in the article you mention, sets up a dichotomy between serious South African literature and genre-literature – the former having a local focus, while the latter is now often set in exotic locales in the pursuit of ‘royalties’ and ‘big glam fame’. I would argue for a different kind of serious South African writing, which is neither necessarily predominantly concerned with South Africa, nor primarily set (t)here, but still driven by the urgency and deep necessity that fuel good writing. And which is not ‘everywhere and nowhere’ either. The notion that Afrikaans authors are somehow uniquely and inseparably tied to South African locales is a relic from a different era. I certainly don’t find the question of where to set my stories strange. For me, the strangest setting, the one that requires the greatest imaginative effort, is in fact South Africa.
So, I didn’t set out to create a suite of cosmopolitan stories, but simply wrote about characters and places that are close to my own experience. I spent my childhood in South Africa, but much of my adult life elsewhere. I don’t particularly like the category of ‘diasporic literature’, as it suggests a state of limbo from which the author may never escape, but it might be of some use. And if emigration entails continuous processes of psychological translation of the self to unfamiliar cultural contexts, and of those contexts to oneself, then the experiences central to such work must surely be re-enacted in language when the diasporic author translates his own work from or into his mother tongue.
Your writing has been called ‘micro-local’, which seems accurate, given its magnificent obsession with (inter alia) the psychogeography of Johannesburg. But it is also informed by sensibilities that are very much not (only) local. It is patently the work of a writer with wide-ranging cosmopolitan reading habits. I, for one, associate your work as closely with late Continental modernism as with South Africa.
In recent decades, there has been a lot of innovation in visual art – a veritable explosion of new forms and media such as performance, installation, photographic and video art. All the experimentation by modernist authors notwithstanding, there have, by contrast, been few real (or lasting) literary innovations over the last century. The novel is still basically the novel, the short story still pretty much the short story. Your own texts are often novel and surprising – sui generis, even – both in their form and process of gestation. There is, for instance, an interesting interaction between your writing and other forms of art.
You have written non-fiction about visual art (Willem Boshoff) and fiction in response to art (The Exploded View and Double Negative, although the relationship between each book and the images that catalysed it is complex). In Portrait with Keys your narrator describes artworks, both hypothetical and real. A Labour of Moles combines images and text, and, in one edition, Double Negative was jointly packaged with David Goldblatt’s TJ. Some visual art is more about concept than craft. It may even amount to little more than a fresh idea, and be capable of being produced or performed with relatively little effort. Fiction can, of course, not work like that. Embodying a concept in words entails labour. Whatever the text may do, it cannot be Duchamp’s urinal, or Joseph Beuys being locked up with a coyote. What drives your textual engagement with visual art? Is your interest primarily in the process of collaborating with artists? Or are you testing the boundaries of words, i.e. are the works straining to be something else? One may, for instance, think of Double Negative as approaching photography, or of Portrait with Keys as approaching a sculpture constructed of found objects. Even though these texts can never be those things, part of their effect seems to be generated by the illusion that they get close.
I greatly admire the conceptual and structural exactitude of your books. If I allow myself to free associate while bringing them to mind, some of the images conjured up are: a perfect puzzle, a Rubik’s cube, a mathematical formula, the periodic table, an exquisitely detailed map or diagram, a complex but efficient machine (or an exploded view of its parts). I do not mean to suggest that your work feels cold or schematic. On the contrary. But, given the reader’s sense of an author who is acutely aware of textual construction, I’d be curious to know how your years of working as an editor might have influenced your writing.
All the best,
The archiving strategies of Van Niekerk and Winterbach are fascinating. The rich vocabularies and diverse registers at play in Agaat and Die boek van toeval en toeverlaat (The Book of Happenstance) show that Afrikaans has surprisingly deep resources for a young language and remains flexible and expressive in the present. This is not to say that these writers are unaware of the changing status of Afrikaans in the new order. I’m reminded of the passage in The Book of Happenstance where the narrator Helena Verbloem has the unenviable task of purging the shelves at the Durban City Library of Afrikaans books to make space for the offices of the Department of Regional Languages. She must get rid of everything published before 1990 (when history began) and all other books that are not widely read. There’s a wonderful scene, hilarious and touching at the same time, where she piles little-known and sometimes lurid popular titles into boxes along with the great novels of Afrikaans literature. Being ‘serious’ will not save them.
Winterbach suggests that it is not just the Afrikaans language but the ‘serious novel’ that is under threat. The novel certainly needs champions, writers and readers who question the ‘popular’ and ‘serious’ labels and don’t dismiss the newly derived category of ‘literary fiction’ as just another genre. As you say, writers have always crossed borders, in their reading as much as their writing. Every novelist I know draws on what used to be called world literature, a more congenial term to me than the ‘global novel’.
De Kock’s characterization of my work as ‘micro-local’ felt like a backhanded compliment. I’m certainly drawn to books that dwell deeply on a single place, and often books that do so have a very broad reach. Earlier this year I read Twenty Minutes in Manhattan by the architect Michael Sorkin, in which he deals minutely with the short walk between his Greenwich Village apartment and his Tribeca studio. He spends the first seventy pages on the stairs, the next twenty on the stoop (the word is derived of course from the same Dutch source as our ‘stoep’). He deals with the practicalities of stair design – how wide is a good step? how many flights can a person comfortably walk up? – but also with the civility that apartment living fosters. Social and economic values shape building regulations, and the spaces permitted by those regulations in turn shape the values of the people who live in them. The book is as local as it gets, but it would speak to anyone who thinks about city life, no matter where they live. Some of Sorkin’s predecessors are local, like the New York urban activist Jane Jacobs, but many of the others, like Walter Benjamin and Michel de Certeau, are on my shelves too.
The novel has endured for so long because it’s such a flexible form. I don’t think the novel can compete with film or the digital media, although writers have picked through them for new ways of doing things. Then again, techniques and effects that were liberating for John Dos Passos or Alain Robbe-Grillet or William S. Burroughs may well have grown stale and become stultifying. It’s clear that some writers now have the movie version in mind when they write their books, something I’ve noticed in my editing work. It’s analogous to those Continental writers you mention who work with the English version in mind. I hear more and more people saying that they would rather watch a good television drama series than read a book, that it’s just as enjoyable, or more so. I don’t find this myself, although I do enjoy a night in front of the TV. The differences are crucial. There are things that only the novel can do, because its medium is language.
I suppose I’ve been working out some of my ambivalent thoughts about words and images in my engagement with photographers and artists. We live in an increasingly visual world, one where visual imagery (illustrative or source material, interviews, maps) tends to supplant the text in the name of enriching it. My instinct was to turn away, but working with visual artists has been rewarding. Artists often think deeply about their own processes, about the presentation of their work and how the context affects the reception. Many writers have a romantic sense of how the work comes about and so they avoid thinking about it. It’s true that there are mysteries in writing (as in the other arts) that it may be better not to uncover, but it can also be bracing to have your assumptions challenged or your habitual patterns disturbed. This is what happens when a writer has to take an artist’s work into account. You enter into the magnetic field of another imagination and meet with or assert a productive resistance.
My friend, the artist Joachim Schönfeldt, who provoked me to write The Exploded View with a set of images, including some he calls ‘narrative accelerators’, draws the distinction between collaboration, in which two or more people work on the same product, and joint work, in which each is responsible for an element in a composite work. It’s a useful distinction. I cannot imagine writing a book with someone else, but the bonded autonomy of a joint project does appeal to me. I found interesting your comments about concept and craft. The artists I admire often combine the two, like Schönfeldt or Willem Boshoff. I wonder if you’ve ever seen Boshoff’s Kubus, made in the late 1970s? It’s a superbly crafted aluminium cube, which opens out into a complicated miniature cityscape. All its truncated towers and stairways interlock inside the smooth faces of the cube. The remarkable thing is that he imagined and crafted this object without the benefit of digital imaging. It’s reminiscent of a Rubik’s cube, but it was made before the craze.
While you singled out the visual in my work, I am struck by the aural in yours. There is music everywhere in your texts. The music devised by Ondien and the Victorian Native Ladies’ Society (in the story ‘VNLS’) starts out as a ‘reasonably coherent’ fusion of Western dance music and African elements, but draws in more and more ‘exotic’ elements to cater to Parisian tastes, and then in Cape Town undergoes a viral accumulation of influences. The story examines the boundaries between chaos and harmony, the line between having a complex identity and having none at all. Here we are back in the territory of local versus global, which we spoke about earlier. Music is also at the heart of your story ‘The Noise Machine’. The star of that piece is the Intonarumori, the noise machine devised by the futurist composer Luigi Russolo. It’s a marvellous image of our chaotic digital present, this wind-up box full of noises, which are classified with Borgesian flair into roars, whistles, whispers, screeches, the voices of animals and people and percussion. (The reference to Borges is anachronistic, but then the story is concerned with things that are out of time and place.)
Are you a musician yourself? How does music figure in your writing?
As I was reading your description of Michael Sorkin’s book, I thought about how I’m often attracted to novels that some readers may deem too ‘static’ – books whose authors don’t feel compelled to harness each sentence for developing character or advancing plot. I’m referring to the kind of ‘stasis’ one may encounter in works of, say, W.G. Sebald, Thomas Bernhard, Sándor Márai or Teju Cole. Or Italian author Diego Marani, in his rich and subtle novel New Finnish Grammar. Works that explore eventful inner lives or serve as a depository for information, observations, ideas and patient narratives that are filtered through an alluring consciousness. Books in which one becomes electrically aware of every sentence, every word. This does not, of course, entail true stasis, just a different kind of movement. I think of the mesmerizing rhythm created by Bernhard’s unabated vitriol, or the stealth with which Sebald hypnotizes his reader – I sometimes stop and read Sebald backwards, weighing the effect of each sentence, trying to pinpoint when hypnosis set in. I think I instinctively lump these books together because they tend to employ techniques that are unique to language, putting them at a greater distance from television or film. In a similar way, I am drawn to films that optimally exploit the tools uniquely available to their medium.
I used to be a lawyer, spending long hours in conference rooms negotiating business transactions – a life that felt diametrically opposed to one devoted to reading and writing. It did feel, at the time, as if one was close to the centre of the world as it operates these days. It also felt as if many things were wrong with that world. Reading and writing, which is what I do now, feel more truth-directed, yet they’re activities on the margins of the world as it currently functions. I recall how acquaintances in the financial sphere in London were dumbfounded that one might want to ‘leave it all behind’ to pursue something as obscure as writing fiction at the southern edge of the world (and in Afrikaans!). And the marginal social and cultural space available for such activities keeps shrinking – at a greater pace in South Africa, but not only here. This sometimes fills one with a sense of loss. Winterbach’s narrator must surely be right that seriousness (or ‘seriousness’) does not guarantee anything. Her novel is also strangely consoling, though, invoking a cosmic scale for weighing such losses, and reducing their mass to almost nil.
Perhaps your own clear-eyed lament for failed, lost or unwritten stories and books in the form of The Loss Library is a lateral and nuanced response to such a sense of loss. This work is perhaps also about the ever-increasing number of books that will not be written or published in the future. But maybe appropriating The Loss Library in this way in an attempt to exorcize my own amorphous sense of loss is presumptuous. And, besides, isn’t more fiction published now than ever before, albeit largely by an ever-smaller number of ever bigger and more risk-averse publishers?
Unless one counts the few recorder lessons that I took at the age of nine, which certainly didn’t result in my mastering the instrument, I am, alas, not a musician. And my knowledge of music is limited. I’m attracted to twentieth century composers, who composed in an era when most people had stopped listening to new classical music, when it was becoming an activity for a shrinking band of insiders. (Is literary fiction going the same way, fracturing into small niches for increasingly specialized multinational communities banding together around shared interests on social media?) As regards the (sometimes fictional) music in my stories, perhaps it’s a way of conjuring up something that, although inaudible to the reader, may compensate for one’s inability as a writer to express certain things. Perhaps one could think of it as something akin to bird language. Of course, even though it’s meant to speak of the failure of words, it’s conjured up using words. Certainly, as you point out, music that becomes hybridized to the point of cacophony seems useful as a metaphor for an identity that becomes so complex and fragmented that it shatters.
You mention that some mysteries in writing should perhaps not be uncovered, but also that writers sometimes have romantic notions about their creative processes. Having written my own stories swiftly, feverishly and without extensive rewriting, I am now trying my hand at the long form, and finding it very hard work. I recall reading about Jackson Pollock making his drip paintings, and how some of the patterns or marks that seemed most spontaneous had in fact been carefully reworked, and vice versa. It is not a new question, but I am interested in the relationship between labour and inspiration. J. M. Coetzee’s character Elizabeth Costello, borrowing language from Czesław Miłosz, calls the author the ‘secretary of the invisible’, suggesting an effortless channelling. In The Master of Petersburg, the character Dostoyevsky ‘thinks of the madness as running through the artery of his right arm down to the fingertips and the pen and so to the page. It runs in a stream; he need not dip the pen, not once.’
This question is perhaps related to the one about how your work as an editor interacts with your writing. It concerns the tension between what is conceptualized or ‘intended’ and the word sculpture that actually emerges. The tension between, on the one hand, the act of pushing oneself consciously and uncomfortably towards constructing and shaping, and, on the other hand, yielding to the other self that writes without us knowing – the subconscious, or the Muse, in conventional terminology. To what extent do you, as an experienced writer, rely on the electric current in the veins to take over and make patterns that surprise you? Or, put differently, am I being hopelessly romantic?
On a different topic: you once said in an interview that, in rapidly transforming societies, writers may lose the space they’ve built their imaginative lives around. I’m interested in the severing of the link between South African city dwellers and their urban habitat. The haves are increasingly hemmed in by the boundaries of well-manicured, walled, guarded estates. Public space is disappearing, or at least avoided by the privileged. There’s no public transport system on which people from different classes intermingle. Instead, the wealthy drive as fast as they can through what they experience as interstitial spaces (dangerous places, non-places) outside the walls, malls and electric fences. Urban barriers create an ever-increasing psychological distance between us and what might have been our neighbourhoods. One becomes estranged from spaces right on one’s own doorstep. You may get close-up views on a daily basis – through the window of your car or home, for instance – of places where you will never set foot. In this kind of cityscape, divided and (perceived as) threatening, flânerie surely requires tenacity. It may even be a form of protest. Do you still walk in Johannesburg, as your writing suggests you once did?
All the best,
I do still walk in Joburg, although I’ve moved from the area I wrote about in Portrait with Keys. My new neighbourhood is leafier, cleaner, more orderly, and therefore safer and more agreeable. Unpredictability is one of the great appeals of walking in the city, which is why I would rather be on a downtown pavement than in a suburban mall, but what’s unpredictable can be unpleasant or dangerous too. I miss my old neighbourhood, and I also feel the absence of a certain kind of urbanity in Joburg, an open way of living that is stifled by the fear and estrangement you describe. But one should keep things in proportion, as you say. When I see what people have lost in places like Syria in recent years, my own losses seem quite manageable. I don’t know how people endure the total obliteration of the familiar world. The destruction of someone’s home seems no less violent than an attack on their person.
I’m glad you’ve returned me to the question of editing. I suppose most writers alternate between more or less free, spontaneous composition and more controlled, deliberate editing. For me the initial imagining is necessarily reckless and much of the art lies in the revision. Although one might have expected the opposite, my drafts have become increasingly chaotic and provisional. This may be an attempt to put my internal editor in his place. As for my editing of other writers, I used to enjoy the painstaking, minutely detailed copy-editing and learned a lot from it. These days I find it frustrating, probably because the years are passing and I have things of my own I want to write. I still enjoy the structural editing, as it’s sometimes called, the large-scale work on structure and flow. Long practice has given me a good sense of how a text fits together and getting the whole thing to run smoothly is satisfying.
Now that you’ve asked about editing, I’m curious to know how your career as a lawyer has affected your writing. The stereotype of legal language is that it’s stilted and obscure, but in the right hands it can also be very precise. The precision of the writing in The Alphabet of Birds is one of its strengths. Incidentally, I notice that you didn’t call the book Alphabet of the Birds, which the Afrikaans title may also have suggested. But let me pick up two other points about language in your earlier emails. When you were writing the stories, you found that those with an international setting strained towards English, whereas Afrikaans fitted itself more tightly to the South African milieu. Then again, you said that the local setting was the strangest one and required the greatest imaginative effort to capture. I wonder how these tensions are playing themselves out in your work in progress. I’m assuming the new novel is set in South Africa! Is a prospective English version intruding at all? Can you imagine writing Afrikaans and English versions simultaneously, as André Brink does? It’s always struck me as a remarkable feat. Assuming that you continue to translate your own work, is the idea of producing two versions of the same book a burden?
Perhaps it’s apocryphal, but apparently Franz Kafka said that reading cases as a law student felt like chewing on mouthfuls of wood shavings that had already passed through thousands of other mouths. I know the feeling. For me, writing has in the past served as an escape from lawyering, and hence I prefer to imagine that legal practice and creative writing are polar opposites. When writing legal documents, one could argue, the lawyer applies certain specialized conventions in order to avoid a multiplicity of interpretations, enabling intersubjectivity. In writing, I guess, one applies a very different and more fluid set of conventions to create a narrative within which multiple possibilities of meaning may be activated, while often simultaneously trying to undermine or reinvent those conventions. In the case of law, the conventions are arrived at through very specific social processes; in the case of literature there is a possibility of conventions being changed by individuals. Also, a legal document, in my experience, does reach a point when it’s done, when it does everything it needs to do. A story or novel is never finished in quite the same way. The possibilities for changing it remain infinite.
In truth, I think, years of lawyering do have an impact on one’s writing. As mentioned, my specialization entailed negotiating and drafting contracts that capture complex business deals – mandating or prohibiting things and allocating risk. Such documents obviously have effects in the real world – sometimes small differences in formulation, even the presence or absence of a comma, may change meaning in a way that has major financial implications. So, I guess one does learn to weigh words carefully. Negotiating and drafting long (often novel-length) contracts probably also helps one learn how to organize textual material. And if one had been a litigation lawyer, which entails engaging in battles to create the most credible narrative, lawyering might perhaps have nurtured instincts that are close to those that enable storytelling.
The positioning of the definite article in the title of The Alphabet of Birds was indeed preceded by spirited debate with my UK publisher (and among their own editorial staff). Some of it centred around how not to make it sound like a reference to a rhyme to teach children the alphabet (‘A is for albatross . . . ’), but, instead, to units from which bird language may be constructed. Considerations of rhythm – and, alas, the question of which phrase may be more intuitive to type into an internet search engine – also played into the decision.
The novel I’m trying to write is in fact predominantly set in London and Berlin in the 1980s. The manuscript is being written in Afrikaans, but there are still times when the English does intrude, yes. In the short stories, the dialogue was first written in English, simply because, after a long absence, I was no longer really in touch with the swiftly evolving registers of spoken Afrikaans. Parts of what I’m writing at the moment still seem to emerge in English first, but are then immediately translated into Afrikaans. Depending on whether there is interest from publishers, it may then all go back into English. The English is hovering in the background, and I’d like to do a translation myself again, but this would, of course, also take up time that might’ve been spent on writing something else. So, the two versions aren’t developing in a completely synchronised way, but it’s moving in that direction.
Thanks, Ivan, I’ve really enjoyed our exchange of correspondence, which explains why I’ve been so long-winded. I always look forward enormously to any new publication of yours, and am eagerly awaiting your new collection of short stories, 101 Detectives.
All the best,