When I showed Michael my What To Do notes he said the references were too esoteric to enjoy. He said it felt like information was missing.

Information was missing, and it was missing on purpose, but I wanted the absences to read like presences. The unfinishedness of the texts was the whole point of what I was trying to say, and the actual words and stories I used to fill the texts – the ‘matter’ – were just a placeholder for the structure. I think my big mistake was to let the words and stories come out louder than the unfinishedness of them, so the gaps in information were acting upon the matter rather than the structure, and it was just coming across as frustrating.

What I think I’ve been missing is the level of the appalled protagonist I described the other day in The Third Policeman. Some kind of explication needs to be pulled down into the text itself to indicate the presence of the lack and, perhaps, to indicate an experience of that lack. The idea would be that if you could read about someone reading and reacting to the text, then the lack would be integrated into a whole. Perhaps you can’t expect someone to read something that isn’t whole. Perhaps it won’t read, like notes without a stave won’t play. Perhaps even a text that’s intended to be incomplete has to be rounded up and completed by some separate oblique means, so that it’s whole in some alternative way while the integrity of the incompleteness is still intact.

So there would need to be a context which is removed from the matter and structure of the text but is still within the work. Text-internal hors-texte. That’s hardly a new idea. I think for the What To Do notes there would be more successful ways of doing this than introducing a reader-protagonist function. The text is already written in the first person. It would need more thought. 

But secretly though I’m not fond of these notes any more, I’m just cannibalising their weaknesses for another project I have up my sleeve. I think I’m working out a better way to do what they’re trying to do. It will involve this new ‘appalled protagonist’ function in one guise or other, but I want to introduce the distance of writing from someone else’s work rather than from my own.