Monday, July 22, 2013

while keeping one eye on the road

This post is another of those annoying entries written for myself so I can look back and track the progress of my current work-in-progress. So you can stop reading now if you like; I won't be offended.

The Hanging Man, previously titled Circus in the Dust, the sequel to The Transcendental Detective, now has four chapters of first draft. That's pretty good. I've been drafting it since May 9 and I've written about 26,000 words. I think. The word count is iffy because all but the first chapter exists only in the form of my longhand MS. I really need to sit down and type the damned thing up soon in case I lose my handwritten version, which would be a tragedy for me and likely I wouldn't even attempt to reconstruct the novel. I'd just write something else. There are plenty of other things to write.

The writing is going well, I think. As I said to my friend Michelle D. Argyle last week, "it seems to be working so far." For those of you who've never written a novel, putting together a first draft can sometimes seem like the act of assembling a car piece-by-piece while simultaneously driving it at high speed down a twisting mountain road. It's exciting and nerve-wracking and fun and you really can't see what you're doing because you have to work the ratchet driver while keeping one eye on the road and feeling around behind you for the next bit of car you want to bolt into place. Fun, as I say. I much prefer revisions. Revisions are a civilized pursuit. First drafts are for crazy people.

There was something else, but I can't remember what it was. Aristotle? Poe? Baudelaire? Kierkegaard at Large? No, it's gone. Oh, maybe it was a brief description of the book: Patience Quince, Algerian police detective traveling through America in 1935, is present at the discovery of the body of an unknown well-dressed man found hanging by the neck in the county equipment shed at Wilburton, Kansas. Patience is temporarily stranded in Wilburton, and cheerfully offers herself in a professional capacity to Sheriff Jack Hawke, who does not want her assistance with the investigation into the death of the hanging man. Et cetera et cetera including dust storms, a circus, telegraph operators, German immigrants and an unread letter, not to mention a very bad painting of a landscape and an immense wooden trunk bound in brass. When you pick up this novel and give it a shake, it will rattle with quite a lot of noise, I promise you.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Words fail me, or "time-stealing gnome romance would be hot"

Well, perhaps words don't entirely fail me. "Horrified" comes readily to mind. I'm talking about this, which is a collection of wished-for projects as tweeted recently by US agents and editors. Really, this is just dispiriting. I will continue to ignore the marketplace and write whatever I'm writing.

What I'm writing, by the way, happens to be a detective novel called The Hanging Man, an alleged sequel to my forthcoming detective novel called The Transcendental Detective. I'm having a hard time staying focused on the investigation of the murder in this sequel; the mood of the detective is so much more interesting to me than the work she's doing. I take this as A Sign, and continue to pursue moods rather than clues. An inner voice, or possibly a form of transcendental knowledge, tells me that I'm on the right track even if it doesn't immediately appear so. Yesterday I wrote a long description of the painting which hangs above the head of the detective's bed, there in a Kansas boarding house. It is a very ugly painting, and a very satisfying description. Yes, I am certainly on to something here. Today, possibly, I'll write a scene where the boarders drink coffee and eat a mean breakfast, and there may even be clues worked into the narrative. My detective would tell you that clues are mere distraction, of course, though they cannot (alas!) be avoided entirely during the important work of detection. Aristotle may be discussed again; we'll see.

Friday, July 5, 2013

a question of jurisdiction: an excerpt from THE HANGING MAN

"I am an officier de police judiciaire, you know. I could arrest you."

"In America, there is no such thing as an officier de police judiciaire. And you have no authority here in any case, Mademoiselle."

"In that case, I may simply shoot you. Perhaps I will be seized by a sudden urge. My status as an officier de police judiciaire will have no bearing upon that, Monsieur Pascal."

Monday, July 1, 2013


People who claim that Finnegans Wake is nonsense, or is a joke, or is unreadable, either have not read the book or are idiots. Or both. Okay, Paulo Coehlo is an idiot, and he was only talking about Ulysses, another brilliant novel by James Joyce. Finnegans Wake is a great novel.

There is no way to meaningfully describe the experience of reading Finnegans Wake, especially the experience of finishing the book, of the last chapter’s absolute magic and beauty and terrible, dreadful sorrow. You could, I suppose, read just the last chapter, but that wouldn’t do, because you need all of what comes before to make full sense of the revelations of Anna’s letter in defense of her husband and her monologue to that sleeping husband. “You will tell me some time if I can believe its all” and “How you said how you’d give me the keys of me heart. And we’d be married till delth to uspart. And though dev do espart. O mine! Only, no, now it’s me who’s got to give” and “I could have stayed up there for always only. It’s something fails us. First we feel. Then we fall. And let her rain now if she likes. Gently or strongly as she likes. Anyway let her rain for my time is come. I done me best when I was let.” Oh, Annie. A way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun.