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Novelistic Nonsense

19 December 2011 No Comment

In the past six months or so, I’ve been trying to get myself to finish this novel I started in Dec of ’09. It’s a strange one – well, strange from my viewpoint as it’s fairly commercial. Maybe a beach read; a fluffy, silly sort of book filled with sex, drugs (just pot but heck maybe I’ll throw in some meth), lots of booze and pretty people. I’m not sure why I even started it. Maybe I was just in the mood to write something flighty and carefree; a book filled with debauchery and fun characters who do listless summer things like swimming and partying.

A friend read it recently and thought it really wasn’t as “chick lit” as I assumed, but went deeper. A marriage might be ruined, a friendship weakened, different lives blossom out of the old. Or so I’m assuming, I think I know the ending but this of course could change. I’m not sure I even want to finish it, it’s painful to write but inbetween I see glimpses of hope there, so I guess I’ll see where it goes.

This is my second attempt at a novel. The first is a heavy book, started twelve years before: it starts with a death, the unraveling of a another relationship, a love affair with a brother, all partially set in a foreign country. One of these days I’ll get back to that one.

Will I finish the second attempt? We’ll see, although my December deadline is here and almost gone. Maybe I’ll never be a novelist – there’s no harm in writing short work forever but I do feel an itch to create something longer, I suppose I crave a continued narrative, something extending beyond glimpses.

My grandfather wrote one novel that did fairly well in the 1950s, about a priest who becomes involved in the life of a trapeze artist. He wrote is at forty and then never wrote another one. Of course he dabbled in other arts before writing: He went to school for architecture, (his roommate at college was Eero Saarinen, and apparently they didn’t get along. My grandfather lived just on the outskirts of Dulles in VA, the airport that Saarinen designed this in the late ’50s. Every time he drove by it, he would wave his fist up in anger at its swooping facade) but the owner of the one house that was built from his drawings, apparently committed suicide shortly after moving in. When he died he was in the process of writing some sort of history of Western stone architecture.

My father also had plans to be a writer but he fell happily into photography, though through the years he’s incorporated much fiction into his visual work. My sister, also a writer, is on her fifth novel, I’m not sure how she does it, she just plugs along, creating amazing stuff. I found the above photo online recently and it reminds me of the novel in progress. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy it in time – looks like good cover material.

An Excerpt:

Gwen was in the kitchen, three chicken lobsters dangling in her hand, when she heard the bang of the door and Pia’s childish laugh. It felt like a slap somehow as if her old friend had cut the cord between she and Jay, cut it with a cheap plastic knife so there were a few stray strings not ruptured but just hanging on. Was she ready to see Pia? It always seemed that way as if she had to prepare herself, smooth out the rough edges and coax the self through, how should one act, what should one say?

“Gwen, Gwen, where are you, you bitch?!” Pia shouted and burst in the kitchen, wrapping her tiny arms around Gwen and kissing her cheek.

“Pia! Hi! So nice to see you.” and it had been easy, this simple exchange, and suitable she supposed, thrown out as she slid the lobsters onto the cutting board, ready to plunge a knife in the back of their heads.

“Lobster?! Perfect, you guys rock – you die hard New Englanders!” Gwen looked fully at her, absorbed her as if re-examining a painting or sculpture she had seen over and over but never fully understood. She was so petite, her tiny figure always dwarfed by her surroundings. Gwen felt she should follow Pia around and place undersized furniture around and under her, so the normal sized sofa and chairs wouldn’t engulf her.

She slipped off her trenchcoat and draped it on the chair and promptly sat down, stretching out her brown legs on the opposite chair. Her hair was shorter and messier now, dark choppy pieces falling sloppily over her eyes, as if she’d had an angry row with a pair of scissors. Her eyes were a hazy topaz with a sweep of black eyeliner over each lid. She laughed again and Gwen glanced at her teeth and remembered the gap in the front and she laughed as well. “It’s great to see you – and how long can you stay?”

Jay stood behind Pia now, his hand gripped on top of the chair and he looked as if they could have easily been draped over her breasts, his hands casually falling down to rest there, thought Gwen but she straightened herself up and got back to the lobsters, ready to dip them in the boiling water.

“Time to eat, or time to get drunk, right?!” she shouted loudly, and Jay came over to her and kissed her nose as she boiled the water, slid the lobsters into the pot, little prehistoric beasts whining and they looked so stark against the cold, white pot that she would surely have to photograph them.

“Jay, can you get my camera?” she asked and looked up at him and he looked so beautiful for a moment – he did have the most lovely mouth she had ever seen – his bottom lip so full while the top was much thinner but rested so perfectly and they were often wet as he had a habit of licking his them. He reminded her of a sated 18th century English man who had just finished a good meal. It was the first thing she noticed when she met him years before.

Jay standing against the wall of the bookshop, some pretentious tome in his hand and she was working in the cafe and he was a friend of a friend and they were introduced and she felt awkward but he put out his hand casually to shake her hand and they chatted about poetry, not in depth but skimmed the topic as if talking about the weather, and she mentioned William Carlos Williams because when she read poetry the visual poems stuck out and she always imaged the scenes – the plums and red wheelbarrows-otherwise she read little poetry and he liked the more visceral poetry and was into Ginsberg at that point but she was sick of the Beats because her mother never shut up about them and then she  couldn’t stop looking at his lips when he talked – they were full and curled up when he laughed and knew immediately she wanted to sleep with him and she imagined those lips kissing hers but then she thought he wouldn’t be attracted to her and forgot about it, said nice to meet you and went back to work, serving coffee to needy college students.

Later they became friends and she often went to his poetry reading and he was a good reader and his poetry was decent and strong and she liked his body language, it was awkward but sexy, the way he moved his body like a stiff puppet but she felt this was the way he shook off his good looks and got people to see beyond them and she did too. She’d go to his apartment and they’d chat more about poetry and what he was doing and what she was doing – she was majoring in art at that point but couldn’t really get into the whole thing was thinking about photography at that point and she started taking photos of him and in all the photos of him and his friends. Then one evening in his room–were they listening to the Pixies? She was sure they were and she remembered Black Francis screaming out “Got me a movie, I want you to know! – he asked if he could kiss her. And she was shocked and felt herself stiffen and the awkwardness arose again – he found her attractive?

And she wasn’t sure what to do so she said yes and they kissed and it felt wonderful and she was able to finally feel what those lips felt like, they felt light and heavy at once and she realized she could easily love him. And now he was looking at her and his lips were more red because he had opened a bottle of red wine and was in the process of offering some to Pia and she was surprised how horny she became suddenly, a strong desire  and she turned away and he said yes and went out to get the camera.

“It’s really you, Pia!” Jay said when he returned and she turned towards them and held her hand out for the camera, she felt she was in a diorama and the label beneath would read: Domestic Bliss, the Future of America. The broad, strapping man and his healthy tall, lean wife. The other young woman at their knees: beautiful and petite, the friend…

* Disclosure: All of the above is in draft form, so please forgive any clumsy writing…

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