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Providence
Daniel Quinn

ONE Well, well,so, so. Yes, I'm awake. Awake now. Waking up. Give me a moment. No, that's all right, really. No need to apologize, no need at all. It's true I was startled to see you here, momentarily startled, but... But you were--expected. I See this surprises you. I don't mean you in particular were expected, I'm not a clairvoyant. Someone was expected. Sometime. Inthe middle of the night? Well, of course in the middle of the night! What better time? In the very dead of night! No, we won't wake Rennie. She's a light sleeper, the lightest sleeper in the world, but the sound of people talking in another room nearby lulls her to sleep very nicely. Like distant surf, a babbling brook. No, to tell the truth, I'm not really quite awake yet, but I'll get there.Another glass of tea... Oh, I know why you've come, you don't have to explain. You're welcome to explain if you like, of course, but you're not the first, after all. You're just the first to have the sense to break into my house at two o'clock in the morning! You've come becauseIshmael is a mysterious book. I can understand that. Itis a mysterious book, even to me. You have questions about it andabout me, and these questions aren't just expressions of curiosity. They touch on matters at the center of your life. Let me start with something simple, a brief history of the writing ofIshmael. This will give us a sort of framework on which to build our conversation. This is the way it was. Back in 1977 I had an idea for a book--or I imagined I did. I thought it would take me about six months, soI sat

down and wrote it, and this wasMan and Alien. But it wasn't quite all there, wasn't quite all together. In fact, it seemed to me that all I'd managed to do was to get a glimpse of the book I wanted to write. It was like a great unknown creature that crouched before me, facing away and blotting out the sky, and all I'd explored in this first version was the tip of its tail. That's all I'dmanaged to grab hold of. So I said, Well, I'll start over and get to the rest of it. It'll take me another six months. By then I'd fixed on one element of the book that was going to be explored again and again in every version thereafter, and this second version was calledThe Genesis Transcript. Six months later I had a thousand pages of manuscript and I'd pulled myself up as far as the base ofthe tail. That was as far as I'd gotten in a thousand pages. So I said, Obviously this approach won't work; at this rate, the thing will be ten thousand pages long. So I threw away the thousand pages, absolutely dumped them into the incinerator. Then I started the third version and worked on that for another few months, and this venture took me to the middle of the creature's back, at which point Ionce again said, Look, I can't get at it this way. I've got to have a whole new approach. So I threw that version away too. At this point we happened to have a small inheritance--a small inheritance that we in our simplicity thought was a very large inheritance--and I had a good idea of what I was going to do with version four, so we decided to move to New Mexico, to a whole new environment, andget this book done once and for all. So we moved to New Mexico and I tried something quite different for version four, and this wasThe Book of Nahash --nahashbeing the Hebrew word forserpent, the serpent that appeared in the Garden of Eden. So you see, I was still working away on that story. WithThe Book of Nahash I thought I'd very nearly done it, but this wasn't the case. I'd gotten up to theshoulder of the beast, but I still couldn't grasp what the damn thing was as a whole. I said, Well, look, I don't know how to get to the end of this damn thing, so why don't I write a bookwithout an end? That's what I tried next. I wroteThe Book of the Damned and started publishing it in parts. I figured I'd just go on writing it and publishing it until I'd said everything I had to say. I produced...
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