While reading a book of Dylan Thomas' letters, I came across one from 1951 or so, written to Marguerite Caetani, publisher of the Italian literary journal Bottega Oscura. Thomas is, as usual, begging for money, offering Caetani the first rights to a "play for voices" called, provisionally, "Llareggub", which is obviously a fake Welsh place name and also "bugger all" spelled backwards. Thomas offered the as-yet-incomplete play to Caetani for £100. I'm not sure he got the money, and I am sure the play actually went to the BBC rather than to Italy. That is not the point. The point is that Thomas describes the play to Caetani in a long breathless and inspired paragraph, clearly in love with the idea and possibly making some of it up in the heat of the moment. The description of the play in Thomas' begging letter made me want to not only read Llareggub, but to write my own version of it. Yes, I said, that's a grand idea, a sort of "Our Town" influenced by Proust's ideas of memory and Joyce's ideas of character and language and the further influence of whatever American writers have seeped into my bones, with no doubt a larding of Shakespeare for good measure. I feel that I could do something with those ideas, that there are many possibilities to be discovered within the work. By now I've read the first part of "Under Milk Wood" (the name Thomas eventually settled on for the play) and it seems pretty terrific. I see that a couple of films have been made of it. I am particularly interested in the first version, with Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor. Why would I not be? I digress.
Anyway, this is an attractive idea despite the fact that it's highly unoriginal of me. I would of course not write a play; the novel seems to be the form that's chosen me. And I've sworn off writing novels after I complete the current work in progress. And yet. It is an attractive idea that looks interesting in all the right ways. I know a small town on the Colorado plains that I could take as a model. Of course "Under Milk Wood" is quite well known (there's a statue of Captain Cat in Swansea) and I'm like a man in a rowboat washing ashore on Coney Island and thinking he's discovered the New World, despite the millions of people already living in Brooklyn.