Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Best stay inside tonight: Finished with The Hanging Man for now

"Best stay inside tonight" is the last sentence in the final chapter of the first draft of the novel The Hanging Man. I wrote that sentence about 45 minutes ago, at lunch. So that's novel number (pause to consider for a second) eight, I think, though possibly I've lost count along the way. Only one of those eight has been published. It would be nice if someday I could get another one to market, but I'm not holding my breath. Still and all, I have finished the first draft of the novel I've been writing and that's a relief and I don't have to think about it until next month, when I will actually read what I have wrought and do a provisional sort of revision before setting it aside for several months. The final pages of The Hanging Man please me a great deal.

I pause yet again to consider the state of American publishing. I confess myself baffled by it. It's rare when a new novel comes out that excites me, and when I look at the catalogues of independent presses I feel a definite estrangement from the books they're putting out. Everyone claims to be transgressive or experimental, but to me it's just a lot of formal gameplaying to hide, I strongly suspect, some pretty pedestrian ideas and inelegant writing. One is not supposed to say that aloud, if one is a writer, but there it is. I am aware that every novelist who can't get a book deal says the same thing. I am unable to critically evaluate my own novels, of course, as every novelist is unable to critically evaluate his own novels. So I can't even claim, honestly, that I write good books. I can only claim that I write books, that I have written eight of them. The most recent book I've written is called, for now, The Hanging Man, and I wrote the final sentence of the first draft around 1:00 PM, PST, today.

Also, Blogger informs me that this is my 666th post. Huh.

13 comments:

  1. That is a lovely last line for The Hanging Man.

    I'm sorry you have had such rotten luck with agents and publishers alike. Please don't take it to heart. You are a damn fine writer Mr. Bailey, and for those of us who have had the pleasure to perambulate through your books, it is a mighty wonderful walk. I feel sad for those who haven't had the opportunity.

    I also love your labels for this post. Snark at its finest.

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  2. Anne, thanks. I'm not looking for reassurance, though. I am bemused by publishing,and lately I feel that publishing is saying, "It's not you, it's me" but publishing is, you know, lying to be kind. Which is fine, because I like writing novels. Mostly it's a pain in the ass to pursue publication and I don't have a lot of time for that pursuit so it seems quite a lot of work. Which it probably isn't, seeing how many books get published each year. Et cetera. Primarily, it must be admitted, I am sleep-deprived this week. God only knows what I put into those last two chapters of the book.

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  3. Also, I should say that while making my evening commute today, I thought about my finished first draft and felt as though I had built the world's most beautiful bomb. That thought pleased me.

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  4. Better those ideas and that writing are hidden than out in the open where sensitive souls like me can see them.

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  5. Everyone wants to be Nabokov or Kafka (or, I guess DFW these days) but they only imitate the surfaces. They don't get that VN's forms and FK's fantasy were made to convey something beyond themselves. Or the story writers all want to be Lydia Davis so they write aphorisms which are clever but hollow. I don't get why any of this is popular. Is our culture clever but hollow? Say it ain't so.

    I admit the possibility that my own novels contain no real ideas, either. Maybe all I got is received cliche and recycled tropes, too. The Astrologer, I tell myself, is not representative of my work, but maybe, alas, it is. I don't know. It appears to be an unsolvable problem, this grasping toward art. Meanwhile I continue to submit MSS to publishers.

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  6. Congratulations, Mr. B! Hooray for number 8! That's so impressive.

    I suspect that people are hoping for brilliant ideas but choosing to produce books even when they haven't managed to find those brilliant ideas yet. We make little discoveries while waiting for big ones, or maybe the little discoveries will combine to make a big one.

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  7. Thank you, Dr M! 8 is a fine number. Not a prime number, but still nice.

    I like the idea of making little discoveries along the way. Maybe big discoveries are rarer than I want them to be.

    I finished the Miranda July book on the bus yesterday evening. I like that book a lot; there were moments of real beauty in almost every story, moments that July elided her way into at unexpected spots in the stories. They are architecturally curious things. I was reminded of Chekhov in their open-endedness.

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  8. 2 cents: Just keep diving and don't worry about the windmills of publishing.

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  9. That's good advice. I should take it.

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  10. Ah, we all think we are brilliant, heh, but I'm like you, all I can do is claim that I write books. I'm on my ... tenth book now, I think. Yep. Tenth. Yikes. Not sure if Catch counts since it's not a novel, but if it does, that's eleven. Just keep writing. It's all you can do. One day, if I don't enjoy it anymore, I won't do it anymore. Simple as that. I doubt that day will ever come, though, no matter what happens with publishing. For me, publishing feels entirely independent of the actual writing.

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  11. ooh- I like that last line!!

    "Everyone wants to be Nabokov or Kafka (or, I guess DFW these days) but they only imitate the surfaces."

    you sound like my husband..haha..he was just saying the other day that a lot of writers don't seem to have much to say. like really say. or something like that and also about writing that conveys 'mood' but nothing much else..his rants about some contemporary literature often sound like yours..just saying.

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  12. Homer made the same arguments back in his time. "Kids today," he said, shaking his head. "They just talk about themselves and they all sound the same. Why don't any of them read the classics?"

    Mr Bailey is just getting old, and entering his "strong opinions" phase. Invective is easy, and usually demonstrates nothing true about the object of the invective. Still, it's easy.

    Hopefully, that last line in the novel actually opens doors rather than closes them. We'll see. Nobody's read the book yet. Not even me, not really.

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  13. Congratulations on your draft. Lamb was similar in 1809: "I am out of the world of readers. I hate all that do read, for they read nothing but reviews and new books. I gather myself up unto the old things." It's much easier to write than to think so I suppose writers will always outnumber thinkers (and then thought, if it's going to be literary thought, needs to be fed through the medium of language, which might be hostile to it: Ruskin telling the reader that he is "consistent" (which he does more than once) reminds me how inconsistent he is, until the sight of Ruskin writing "I am consistent" says everything to me except "Ruskin is consistent." But he writing down a desire there, I think, rather than a thought (I mean: a thought based on observation and facts that he can point to, as he does when he's discussing granite or feathers); and the desire uses the same language that a thought would have used if he'd had absolute factual rock solid evidence that he was actually consistent, which he doesn't and in fact the opposite situation pertains throughout his work)).

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