The final three chapters of Go Home, Miss America are unspooling onto the page at a pretty good clip; yesterday I managed the first third of chapter 14 and it’s hanging together and moving in the desired direction, which will be as big a relief to readers as it is to me, I’m sure. I am trying very hard to push all thoughts of meaning or theme or interpretation out of my head during this final stretch, because one thing I hate is an author who sums things up or moralizes in the end. So I’m concentrating on images and actions and emotions and ignoring the very idea that it might all add up to anything. Which is liberating, in a way, but alarming in others. Anyway, this first draft should be finished soon, and I really mean it this time. This will be my sixth novel. Huh.
While that book is falling at long last into place, I begin to think about my next book, which has the working title of “the Haydn book” because nobody likes the title The Builder’s Wife, which was the working title for the last couple of years while I was writing other books. So I’ll have to find a real, proper title, but that can wait. I’ll just write the book and see what comes out of it.
The Haydn book will be great fun, I think. Franz Joseph Haydn, innovative and famous-during-his-lifetime composer of symphonies, operas, concertos and chamber music (inventor of the string quartet, no less) is reaching the end of his long tenure as the Kappelmeister for Prince Esterhazy. The prince is about to die, but nobody knows that. Haydn is getting on in years. He is attempting to have an affair with a much younger woman (the builder’s wife of the rejected title), but the woman is oblivious to the uncertain charms of Herr Haydn (a decidedly unhandsome man who most women think of as a talented but eccentric sort of uncle or grandfather). She is already having an affair, with the assistant principal violinist of Haydn’s orchestra. When the builder’s wife and the assistant principal violinist run off together to Vienna, they are pursued by the angry builder, the angry Haydn, and the angry wife of the principal violinist (who has a mad passionate unrequited love for the assistant principal violinist). In Vienna, folks get involved on the fringes of a plot to assassinate the Emperor at the Vienna Opera during a performance of a Mozart opera. Mozart, being dead by 1790, is not officially in attendance but his ghost is there and narrates some of the action. Yes, that’s right: Mozart’s ghost will narrate a few chapters.
That’s the formal game I’m playing with this book: it will be a series of first-person narratives wherein the active characters will narrate the events of the other characters. The builder will tell us what happens to the assistant principal violinist. Haydn’s wife will tell us what happens to the builder, maybe. Haydn will tell us what happens to the builder’s wife. And like that, around and around in a widening gyre. It will be a high degree of difficulty, will be a lot of fun for me, and if I pull it off I’ll be a total rock star. So I’ve got that to play with next year, and I look forward to it. In the meanwhile, I’ll prepare for this activity by playing a lot of Haydn’s music on my violin, reading Jane Austen and Voltaire, studying up on the Austro-Hungarian empire and maybe having a look at Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum again. It’s been years.