The Ishmael Community: Things To Read... Daniel's Blog!
Sep 4, 2015
My latest novel is in the hands of my agent, but before getting to work on my next, I started a large art project—large in that it has absorbed my attention for almost two months. It is two constructions put together from found materials (some of which have been sitting around awaiting use for decades).
Here is the first to be completed, titled "The Cinderella Room."
The other, which will be finished in a week or two, will be "The George S. Patton Room."
You can see details of The Cinderella Room on my Facebook page http://on.fb.me/1MXVCu4. If you click on "Photos," you'll see two copies of the room. Ignore the first (the Timeline photo) and click on the second. This will give you snapshots of the different sections of the room. Clicking on those will bring up much bigger images you can view as a slide show. (This may be more explanation than you need, but I include it for any readers who may be as uneducated as I am in the ways of FB and photo operations.)
posted by Daniel Quinn on September, 09
Jul 17, 2015
A couple months ago I finished a new novel and sent it off to my agent. A couple months LATER, she got back to me with suggested revisions (which I made and sent along last week). More about this when there's actually something to report.
In the meantime I've started another novel, which, for the moment, carries the label "Corpse." A month and a half ago I began writing a blog about it, which read as follows: "For a week now I've had a clear fix on the story for a new novel, but I haven't been tapping away at my keyboard. In fact, I realized yesterday that I felt a definite aversion toward tapping away at my keyboard. I asked myself 'Why, why, why?' I finally pinned it down."
Bur in fact I HADN'T pinned it down, never finished writing the blog, and went on feeling a definite aversion to the whole thing. BUT, finally, today, I really DID pin it down.
It's automatic for me to start novels in media res—in the middle of the thing. For example, The novel Ishmael's story is not the gorilla's story, it's the narrator's, and HIS story begins with his enchantment with the children's revolt of the sixties. But the story of the NOVEL doesn't begin there. It begins in media res, with his reading of that famous want ad: "Teacher seeks pupil." If you examine my other novels, you'll see that each really begins in the middle of the thing (whatever the thing may be).
Why begin in the middle of the thing? Think about the beginning of a walk you might take. It begins when you lean forward, lift a foot, and swing it forward. That middle-of-a-step puts you in motion. Without it, you just stand there flat-footed and motionless.
I took it for granted that I was doing the usual with this new novel, "Corpse"—starting in the middle. But if this was so, why was I getting NOWHERE? Why was I even reluctant to work on it?
At last I realized that it was because I was NOT starting in media res. Absolutely NOTHING happens before the events I had begun with, so how could these events be in the MIDDLE of the story? For this reason, the character had no history, no experience, no voice, so why would I want to write about him? I finally realized that the MIDDLE of the story "corpse" is set YEARS after the events I'd been trying to write about.
So I started again, this time with a character LIVING in the middle of the thing, talking about these events from the perspective of a much older character who had a history, who had had many important experiences, who had a distinctive voice. I was now leaning forward, lifting my foot, and swinging it forward. I was no longer standing still, I was MOVING!
It was strange to discover that, after a quarter-century as a novelist, I STILL have things to learn!
But every novel is a succession of problems-to-be-solved. I've solved only the FIRST of them in this book. The novel presently dubbed "Corpse" will be someday finished ONLY if I manage to solve ALL of the problems it presents. (And it's entirely possible that one of these problems may prove to be unsolvable—as has happened more than once.)
posted by Daniel Quinn on September, 06