Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writes of Passage: the Novel as Statistic


Why would a grown man spend hundreds of hours living and writing a novel that statistically stands no better a chance than being read by five or six hundred readers?  Well.  You already know several answers to that question, one of which is the potential for it being read by ever so many more or even a mid-list quantity more than five or six hundred readers.  

Another answer has to do with said grown man not being  able to help himself, of having experienced consequences previously when he saw fit not to spend the hundreds of hours of living and writing required to write a particular novel, consequences that to say the lease made him feel less comfortable about himself than he normally felt.  You could also ask said grown man if he thought the novel, regardless of how many persons read it or did not read it, would change human behavior.  He would answer yes, but not intending the change to be noticeable in humanity in general but rather within him; the change in human behavior would be resident within him because, after all, he'd come into the novel in the first place making accommodations, listening to the very characters he disliked the most, trying to find some glowing coal of humanity within them he could fan up to a flame that gave off some heat.  He would also be celebrating contrariness in his characters, thus glorifying the difference between them and those who strive only to be invisible through their adherence to tenets, concepts, and beliefs that do not rattle the cages of any cultural zoo or jail.

Such a grown man might well remind you that this was his work beyond the work of keeping himself clothed, fed, and sheltered.  He might remind you that he would have done it anyway, pleased to have the stimuli present that cause him to do this rather than, say, construct models of the Eiffel Tower from toothpicks or fit together pieces of jigsaw puzzles. neither of which, by the way, are all that distinct from writing novels.

There is in the real time interstice between the outer edge of Santa Barbara (Montecito) and Summerland a vast expanse of land at the top of Ortega Ridge that in recent years has been occupied by an organization called Qad (see map above).  You have obliterated the reality of Qad, which specializes in digital and electronic imagery and computer-based systems, instituting instead an upmarket retirement campus called Casa Jocosa, the name a Spanish translation from Edith Wharton's ironic The House of Mirth.  Every time you drive past Qad, you do not see Qad, you see Casa Jocosa, which is the venue for the novel in the works.  You are there, inventing even in off waking moments such conceits as a footpath system named after the Santa Monica Freeway some ninety-five miles to the south in Los Angeles.  You see Thursday night poker games and, only this morning, you saw and are quickly implementing a segment that houses a group of homeless illegal aliens who have tapped into the watering system of the golf course to provide morning showers and shaving water for those illegals as they begin their day, looking for and finding work in nearby Summerland and Carpinteria.  Thus have you with this very conceit altered your own sense of what it is to have a novel in progress, peopled with individuals who represent the demographics of a privileged community and the concept of trickle-down made so famous by a former governor of the state and President of the United States.

This is your world, a world you recognize as no better and no worse than the real world about you; it is a core sampling, a metaphor, a reason for being.  You like to think that more than five or six hundred persons will enjoy reading it, but you never know about such things.  There is an old Buddhist saying:  A sandcastle built far enough away from the shoreline to avoid being toppled by the incoming tide is in danger of being toppled by incoming dogs.

Actually,there is no such Buddhist saying, which you probably suspected.  I made it up, which you probably suspected.


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