Whisky Magazine Issue 51
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This issue Jefferson Chase on Terence Blacker's bleak novel 'Kill your Darlings'
Literature, as anyone involved with the production side knows, is a nasty business. The act of writing encourages an unsavoury mix of insecurity, solipsism, arrogance and obsession that sends many a scribe reaching regularly for a bottle. And the act of profiting from writing yields a host of characters grotesque enough for Thackeray or Swift: the Agent, the Editor, the Publicist and, perhaps worst of all, the Celebrity Author.
Which brings us to Terence Blacker's Kill Your Darlings. The title refers to a piece of advice always passed to novice fiction writers – i.e. don't fall in love with your characters. No chance of that here. Blacker got his start writing books for young people, a genre held in smug contempt by those who see themselves as higher up in the literary feeding chain. Darlings reads like Blacker's revenge on those who might have looked down upon him.
The story is told from the perspective of Gregory Keays, a former rising star of the 1960s British book scene reduced to teaching creative writing at a London community college. Contemptuous of his students, despite suffering himself from a 15-year-long case of writer's block, Keyes seizes upon one of his charges, Peter Gibson, whom he suspects might have some talent.
He invites him out for a drink at a wine bar.
As we entered we were buffeted by the sound of fake, end-of-day merriment, by office workers clucking with gossip and excitement like battery hens at feeding time, the din punctuated occasionally by...