Sunday, September 11, 2016

Domestic Violence

Working on any writing project, whether a simple book review or a longer, booklength venture, can be like listening to the neighbors arguing, only to realize that the parties at each other's throats is not the neighbors but instead, you.

The current book length project has brought forth some accusations, questions of parentage, and the old schoolyard, back-and-forth litany of "Is not." Is, too!" This is as a result of you having chosen a list of the one hundred novels from which you have learned the most vital aspects of the storyteller's art in the long form. Somewhere in the back of your mind and, indeed, even in the prospectus you've written for this work in progress, was the promise to write a similar work about the hundred short stories from which you believe you've learned the most.

This last aspect of the madness, because any long form writing venture is a form of madness, guarantees yet more arguments, more name calling and recrimination, more accusations, more departures from the controlled skepticism you find yourself swimming in these days to the sudden surges of adrenaline consistent with the awareness of sharks in these waters.

A package in the familiar shape of a book entombed in corrugated cardboard arrived this morning. Nothing out of the ordinary here; you order books online the way chocolate lovers slip bags of M and M's and Godiva bars into their shopping cart. You pull at the convenience tab, which works to perfection, delivering into your hands Moonglow, the new novel by one of your favorite living writers, Michael Chabon. 

The net result being the morning is gone and you have to rush to move your car, moments ahead of the marauding traffic cop on wheels who acts as though her success on the job depends on her catching you being lax in moving your car for street sweeping.

The cover of Moonglow promises it is a novel, but after the first few pages, the text appears to be a memoir, then a biography of a first-person narrator's grandfather. Sometimes--nay, often--you are slow on the uptake; the work is fiction if it is invented. Knowing Chabon from his earlier work, which is the point here, you recognize you are holding in hand a made-up memoir as opposed to an actual one. Anything and everything are not only possible qualities of a novel, they are necessary ones.

The more you read of Moonglow, the more certain you are to finish it, and in fact, the keener you are to get on with the process, which realization has the neighbors at it again, bickering at a high, fractious pitch, the accusations rumbling like low-hanging thunder clouds.

Impeccable in its sanity is the voice that asks you, "How is it that you have not included Chabon's epic romp, The Jewish Policeman's Union?"  Never mind that you enjoyed the book, noting its traces and hints the way you would experience the brisk persistence of a fine pinot noir. Mind instead how seamlessly Chabon blended alternate history with alternate reality, mystery, satire, and social commentary. Mind how, reminiscent of the famed Jewish folk hero-legendary creature The Golem, Chabon created a character who was, among other things, a significant stretch of imagination in the form of a detective who was half-Jewish, half-Tlingit.

"How is it," that sane voice asks, "that you have not..?"

"Okay," you say aloud. "I get it." And your mind flashes on the novel you will remove from the A-list, in order to replace it with the Chabon.

"Wait, wait," the soon to be bumped novel calls out. "You knew the author. You read that novel when it was a serial in a pulp magazine. You said of it that you would give anything to write with such implicit complexity about the human condition, about themes, and individuality."

You promised it an appearance on your B-List. You argued that the unstated theme of the entire project was change, how reading brought change to your psyche, your life, and to the way you saw Reality.

"You fucker," the fated novel said, "You dumped me."

The argument still rages. You will not be surprised if the police arrive in response to an alert of domestic violence.

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