• There's a theme that appears in much of your work," I say to Maurice on my last visit to Connecticut, "and I can only hint at it because it's difficult to formulate or describe. It has something to do with the lines: 'As I went over the water/the water went over me' [from As I Went over the Water] or 'I'm in the milk and the milk's in me' [from Night Kitchen].""Obviously I have one theme, and it's even in the book I'm working on right now. It's not that I have such original ideas, just that I'm good at doing variations on the same idea over and over again. You can't imagine how relieved I was to find out that Henry James admitted he had only a couple of themes and that all of his books were based on them. That's all we need as artists - one power-driven fantasy or obsession, then to be clever enough to do variations… like a series of variations by Mozart. They're so good that you forget they're based on one theme. The same things draw me, the same images…""What is this one obsession?""I'm not about to tell you - not because it's a secret, but because I can't verbalize it.""There's a line by Bob Dylan in 'Just Like a Woman' which talks about being 'inside the rain.'""Inside the rain?""When it's raining outside," I explain, "I often feel inside myself, as if I were inside the rain… as if the rain were my self. That's the sense I get from Dylan's image and from your books as well.""It's strange you say that," Maurice answers, "because rain has become one of the potent images of my new book. It sort of scares me that you mentioned that line. Maybe that's what rain means. It's such an important ingredient in this new work, and I've never understood what it meant. There was a thing about me and rain when I was a child: if I could summon it up in one sentence, I'd be happy to. It's such connected tissue…

    Jonathan Cott
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