The Blur. You know – that tiny space that’s all the difference between the wooden back of a musty wardrobe and the cold crisp air of Narnia. I don’t know why I call it the Blur really. There’s nothing blurry about it at all. In the Blur the lines all have sharp edges. The colours are bright. The blur is sometimes the most real of all the strange spaces we inhabit.
I live in the Blur – that almost dimension between fact and fiction. I think all writers live there somewhere, and maybe we live there most, (when I walk round London now and I see an old cab shelter, I’m with Ted and young Fin and the Knights and the secret Cabbies that watch London and all the rest of the Somewhere and Nowhere I’ve spent 3 books making real, I’m not there, on that pavement looking at a forgotten green wooden box) but it isn’t just our place. It would be easy to get all pretentious and try and stick a writers’ national flag on it, but it’s not ours. I knew the Blur long before I wrote a book.
Readers know the Blur. You’re in the Blur when you go to a real place but the things and people you remember most from it and care about are ones you read in a book. A few years ago I visited an author friend of mine in Boston and he said, ‘You know where we’re going today?’ I didn’t know. ‘Ogunquit, Maine. I thought you’d want to see it.’ Man, I was so excited. This may mean nothing to you, but if you’ve ever read The Stand (several times in my case) then your stomach would have fizzed like mine did. I smiled the whole goddamned way. When we got there, and Chris Golden and I walked the beaches and looked at the houses, I was seeing where Frannie Goldsmith found out she was pregnant, and when I looked at the rooftops I could almost see the sign she and greasy Harold Lauder painted before they started their journey towards their individual destinies. That shit was more real to me than the people selling painted boats in the cute tourist shops or the cold wind coming in from the ocean. My Ogunquit, Maine T-shirt is all about having visited Stephen King’s Blur for an afternoon – a real place and a fictional one, layered over each other.
Me and a 15 year old student took a trip to the Blur (prompted by the same book) one afternoon back when I was still teaching and there was the first bird flu outbreak. ‘Captain Trips,’ one boy said, ominously. I looked up, eyes wide. ‘Captain Trips?’ He nodded. I smiled. The other kids looked at us like we were mad, but I was there in the Blur for a moment and so was he. Captain Trips was coming..and bringing with it the walkin’ dude…The truth of the panic around bird flu was wrapped into the memory of the panic about Captain Trips in a work of fiction. Fact and fiction and the slipstream between them where in that moment, he and I sat.
Dreamers know the Blur. Proper dreamers. Vivid dreamers. I could cry for people who say they don’t remember their dreams. It must be awful. Life must be so dull, in colours as well as actions. How much life are they missing? I love my dreams. Even the terrifying ones that would wake me up at night when I was a kid and I’d creep into the older girls’ dorms at boarding school and wake someone up and make them talk to me until it was light so that I wouldn’t fall back to sleep again. Dreaming is a world in itself. It encapsulates the Blur. What is real and what isn’t? If you remember something vividly from a dream years after, then surely that’s maybe more real than something you actually did but that everyone, including you has forgotten?
About two years ago I had a dream where a famous writer was a kind of Doctor Who character and I was his assistant. He took me out to the very edge of our universe and we stood in space, on a boundary between two places. Ahead, there was a wormhole and through it I could see worlds of such brightness and colours and brilliance that they took my breath away. I ached to go forward. I looked at the Doctor/FamousWriter. ‘We can go there,’ he said, ‘but if we do, you can never go back.’ I turned around and looked behind me. Far in the distance I could see the Earth and the Moon and I felt such a wave of sadness. I looked forward. I looked back. I woke up before I made my choice. I don’t think that dream will ever leave me. But I can’t remember what I did last week….See? The Blur is real. It is to me.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. If you know what I’m talking about, then you got it in the first sentence, and if you don’t, then I’ve probably just bored you. I have to go anyway, I’ve got some hours to spend in The Blur making shit up with people I’ve made up but who are very real to me and make them do stuff in places that are real but that I’ve turned into fiction. My stomach is fizzing.
You know that Doctor in my dream? I think he was wrong. You can go to a place of brilliance and brightness and colours, and you can still come home. It’s all in your own head, after all.
I love the Blur. It’s where magic is real and everything is possible.
Hope to see you there. x