I emerged from the last read-through – though I want to do another – last night, the May bank holiday. The publisher and editor objected to my use of the word, fuck. Incidentally, I can’t just transfer this post to a post on my publisher’s site because the word’s forbidden there and after freezing in fugue the thing collapses into coma. I looked closely at the notes where the word or some derivative of it occurred. In the first instance the word had been replaced by the word ‘shag’ that I’d suggested as near alternative but, as the publisher had thought, it was worse, vulgar. I wanted rid of it and with a little expatiation of the context was able to get shot of it and, while I was at it, didn’t need to use ‘fuck’ either. I did the like for the next two instances of its use and was confident I could do the same for the last at the end. Then I read the end.
The end is a threnody. Near the beginning of the relationship and the book I agree to the want of my correspondent which is to be a published writer, in return for which she’d give her life. I’d tell her when. At the end I’m telling in a letter now’s the time to die. A friend I’m having sex with intrudes to say I’m being cruel, without having read the letter to substantiate the charge, and I turn on her. The derision comes across stylistically in the writing of the incident as ‘the friend I was fucking.’ Now, the substitute, ‘having sex with,’ is lamer, goes against the tenor of the threnody, and is wrong because it couldn’t cover that the friend I was fucking spiritually, with death, was my correspondent, albeit in the cause of fulfilling her wish.
The man she asked to fulfil it is the best judge how to. ‘Friend I was fucking’ stays.