Thursday, January 23, 2014

"I write at the top of my page" Mona in the Desert, briefly

In the early afternoon we were heading north again, the sun bright behind my left shoulder glinting off the edge of the wing mirror and causing flecks of crushed quartz in the surface of the road to shimmer as if some pixie had come this way not long before us. On another day I might have thought it pretty. We passed a couple of kids changing a tire on the shoulder of the road, two young boys and a girl, high school age, the boys shirtless and dark brown. The girl wore a denim skirt, too short, and a black top with some heartthrob’s face screened across at the level of the girl's breasts. She leaned against the back of the car with a bottle of soda in one hand and a cigarette stolen from her mother's purse in the other, not watching the boys work. She did not look up as I drove past. One day Time will come with his sickle to play havoc with her rosy lips and cheeks. An hour or so later I pulled the car off the road near a stand of trees for a few minutes, badly needing to piss. Josephine didn't stir the whole time. She has no idea. I stood outside the car under the bright sun and the shining sky, looking at my wife through the tinted passenger-side window and I asked myself why nobody ever stopped us. Mona, the Triplets. All of us set adrift and wondering, never having learned how to mark up a map and plan the journey. The morning Josephine and I set off on this pilgrimage, I got a phone call from my mother. Have you heard anything from Ernie? I don't talk to him, Mom. We've never had much to say to each other. I write at the top of my page: maps, as the crow flies.

I won't suffer my reader to wade through 5,000 words about a Shakespeare play the bard never actually wrote, not today. Instead I interrupt my occasional posts about Dickens and Ruskin to note that I continue revisions on the novel Mona in the Desert, having decided last night to add a new chapter at the midpoint of the narrative, a chapter titled An Additional Brief Note Regarding the Author's Method, a snippet of which new chapter you have before you, above. Rough, I admit, but there will be many hours of revisions in the future, after I finish giving the narrative its new shape, whatever shape that will be. Things remain unclear just yet. I feel a bit like a drowning man is said to feel when I wade into this revision. But I remain excited by the book, which is a good sign, I suppose. The subsidiary plotlines are gaining strength and breadth and all of that. The book is getting longer. I have no idea how much of the stuff I'm throwing at the story will stick, and how much will be cut away in the next revision. I have no idea how long I'll be working on this book. Six months ago I would've told you that it was pretty well finished and complete. Six months ago, I would've been wrong about that.

Also, Mr Dickens has begun killing off his characters in Bleak House. Clearly he's heading now into the final stretch of the story.


  1. I get pretty excited when I think of a good scene to insert to make the story more complete. This is a nice vivid passage, Mr. B. It raises many questions that are not answered, and that makes me want to read before and after!

  2. By the way, I've been enjoying your posts about Ruskin and Dickens. I just don't have things to say that will enrich the discussion most days.

  3. Dr Malasarn! The organizing principle, or the overarching design, maybe, is a sort of network of images that recur over time, accompanied by different cast memebers. The kids changing the tire show up again, 60 years earlier, 100 pages later. And stuff like that.

    I finished Bleak House but I'm still reading Ruskin's Stones of Venice. I'm not sure I'll have more to say about that Dickens novel. I think some of the final 200 pages was repetitive and a bit of padding, but the ending was quite clever in many ways. Or, rather, the endings were clever, since there were so many strands of story. But I don't know if I have much more to say about it.

    I'm reading Catch by Michelle Argyle right now. It moves along pretty briskly!

  4. Catch was the last thing I finished. I'm currently reading Out of Tune, and then it's The Last Guest! A feast of Literary Lab Literatia!