Wednesday, August 6, 2014

In a tabernacle

Today is of course the Feast of the Transfiguration, a day which almost always reminds me that we live in a miraculous world. So bear that in mind as you go about your business.

I write today's post primarily to remind myself of a few things: first, that I am nearly finished with the first draft of the long long story "Antosha in Prague," which will be the title story, probably, of the collection I'm currently writing. "Antosha in Prague" seems like a pretty good story to me. In a day or so I'll begin working on the final pages, which comprise the "Kafka" section. I'll be interested to see how I solve the formal problems of that section.

I have also decided to drag poor Vladimir Nabokov into the book, in a story I'm calling "A White-Crowned Sparrow." Working on this new story has made me aware of Nabokov's prose in a new way, which has been an interesting experience. I am attempting, I tell myself, to in some manner invoke the style of Nabokov's later prose in a few passages of the story I'm writing:
Arrayed carefully across the small desk behind which Vladimir sat were a sheet of plain white typing paper, a sharpened pencil that terminated in a pink button of rubber crimped into a brass ferrule, a fountain pen with a fine tip and a reservoir full of dark red ink, a wooden ruler, and a pair of sharp scissors.
Things like that. The description of the pencil's eraser is Nabokovian, I think. I'll have to do some more work on the fountain pen, changing the reservoir into a belly and that sort of thing. I'm also working on the fictional Nabokov's attitude:
A hack writer, Vladimir thought, would open a story with "It all began when he turned off the radio." A pistol would doubtless be quickly introduced into the narrative, and then would appear a woman with a slightly open mouth, her lips crimson with waxen color, her golden hair in disarray. The pistol and the open mouth were always in close proximity in those sorts of tales, everything as vulgar as the mean imagination of the hack would permit. Vladimir did not trust stories that required the casting of such cheap reticulate cliches designed to catch the attention of a reader. A reader in any case, he believed, should leap bravely into a tale with a sense of wonder, prepared to encounter whatever forces the author placed before him. Else why read at all? There is an art to reading, Vladimir had relentlessly reminded his students during those long years when he'd lectured on literature. Learn to be an artist among lecteurs, he'd told them, or they could go home and learn how to read the TV Guide.
And so on in the same general style, whatever that is. The trick is to also make this story feel like a Chekhov story. I believe I've solved that problem with the ending. Don't ask; spoilers, you know.

I also write to exhort you all to go to the Melville House website where they've got a heck of a sale going on. Melville House may have passed on one of my novels, but I still think they're an admirable independent publisher. The sale to which I've linked is one in which you must appear in person, but I also believe they've got something like a 40% off thing going right now. Melville House books are cheap at full price, so you cannot lose. And now it's time for my afternoon coffee break.

1 comment:

  1. Well! That is quite an eraser, Mr. Nabokov. Mr. Bailey, I look forward to your story...

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