“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade.” (Benjamin Franklin)
I must admit that I’m a little lost in thought today, lost in translation between the world I know and I’m used to, the world of flash fiction, and another world that I would like to enter, but I don’t know if I can get my fat head through the door: the world of the novel.
It’s NaNoWriMo, and as a regular religious reader of Virtual Writers, Inc., you know, as a matter of course, what I’m talking about: National November Writing Month will shortly be upon us. Last year, over 100,000 writers of all shades endeavoured to break through the invisible barrier of 50,000 words that separates the mere mortal, who is able to wield a pen pleasuring his contemporaries, from the novelist, a different person altogether, quite possibly not purely human.
I cannot help but think in this hour of need of the many things clever men have said about the novel. Like John Gardner – some of you may know him not only as an essayist, but as a marvelous writer’s writer:
“Successful novel-length fictions can be organized in numerous ways: energetically, that is, by a sequence of causally related events; juxtapositionally, when the novel’s parts have symbolic or thematic relationship but no flowing development through cause and effect; or lyrically, that is, by some essentially musical principle- one thinks, for example, of the novels of Marcel Proust or Virginia Woolf.”
Puff. There goes the dream…I understand the novel needs to be “organized” – the very notion I hoped to escape from when writing. My life away from the pen is already sooo organised. Even my virtual life is, by now, beginning to look awfully organised: meetings, readings, locations…what about the freely roaming spirit that elevates, as if by magic, above the text, that doesn’t even know of text? All crap, if we believe Gardner, or Dorothea Brande, who wrote in a similar vein thirty years before him.
Marcel Proust [maʁsɛl pʁust] I can understand, of course, I’ve lived with him, as we all have, one breath at a time, one croissant every morning, searching for things lost under the sofa, like time. And Virginia Woolf – I know her well: we used to live in the same lighthouse until she left to grab a pack of cigarettes and never came back.
I like the lyrical waxing, but I also like energy, though I dislike cause and effect as too mundane a relationship which cannot bring forth rainbow-coloured flowers, or love. I adore juxtaposition: later, I will lie down next to Ms. Flawnt, who completes me and who might agree to spoon me. There you have it: either I allow myself to disorganise the novel, or I won’t ever write one.
But, you know, I will do it anyway, no matter what kind of defences my inner critic will throw at me: I listened to Huckleberry Hax’ excellent introduction under Milk Wood last week, and I picked up the gauntlet that Harriet Gausman threw down, and I wrote a synopsis (after looking the word up in my father’s fat Latin dictionary – hint: it’s not the race horse that won the Prix Millet in 2007). I slept badly for two nights afterwards, waking up in the small hours sweating and swearing because I felt that my anticipated characters were too tall and too handsome, and I’m going to do something about it, energetically juxtapositioning, with lyrical music, yes I will. Be my guest and check out our NaNoWriMo tree in Gypsy Camp.
Throughout November, my views will be dominated by the writing of a first novel. I may not finish, but I’ll put up a fight. I’m a serious writer after all.