Sunday, November 01, 2009


So two months ago I wrote a novel. I think the time has come for an accounting.

First, I thought I was beyond my beat phase. That is, I never thought I would consciously dedicate any of my work to Jack Kerouac. But life sure is a rich tapestry!

The gist of the novel can be summarized in one brief passage. In it, it is winter. The main character, Cyrus, is returning home after a wearisome day of trudging down slush-streets in pursuit of work and canned food. As is his habit, he is dialoguing with Jack Kerouac, based on a "haiku" Jack has written.

Kerouac: Came down from your ivory tower.
Cyrus: To stare at an opening flower?
Kerouac: No. To find no world.

I am pleased with this exchange, which I will try to explicate. Cyrus is about eight months out of university. The world conspires to make him realize how little his theoria is valued. His practical work is tedious and intermittent. It's wearing him down; eating up his imagination; tiring his eyelids; wearying his muscles. He still clings to the hope that he is in control of his time, that he can cultivate the work of patient sight ("staring at the flower"). But some part of him knows better, and it is that poetic part. We cna see this, because the line Cyrus suggests to Jack would form a heroic rhyming couplet, but this is rejected. Rhythm breaks. Symmetry breaks

Anyway, the theme of the entire work is stated there, quite baldly. It actually came to me as a surprise. The whole idea: the dialoguing with poets, representing the inwardness that withdraws from the world, a few choice passages--particularly the cynical ones, or the ones around the nadir

Some things I am displeased with:

The main character, arguably the only character in the whole work, is a too-thinly-disguised myself. This is maybe justifiable, because in the work I was trying to give the structure of the monomyth to a profoundly depressing, distressing, and trying year of my life--you know the one, the disillusioning one, the one where I stare into an abyss for months on end; the abyss of banality. But nevertheless I am uncomfortable with the fact that this is more of a "fictionalization" than "fiction". And while it is true that all fiction is fictionalization to some extent, there is something disturbing in how self-indulgent it gets. And with that much self-indulgence, it becomes impossible to lift your head above the mist of self-directed thoughts, all the self-congratulatory "yes, yes... this is great!" moments. It becomes difficult to tie yourself to something more universal.

Two more problems: (1) implicit solipsism, and (2) pointlessness and entropy. It was a monologue that strived to be more--and failed. And in that, it became pointless for many long passages, became pointlessly entagled in the minutiae of one fictional subjectivity.

I am glad I finished a work of appreciable length. Nevertheless, with two months behind it, I have suggestions for revision aplenty.

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(That was a pitiful joke.)

Consider: "Fiction has to be plausible. All history has to do is happen."