I have three fat scatter-shot notebooks that attempt to work out the "novel" I'm working on.
I'm closing in on the end of the third book: a chaotic black journal I first purchased in Santa Cruz on my thirtieth birthday that is one part diary, and two parts working notes for stories and a novel. That was the trip when we caught the dying butterfly, preserved it -- and found, via photographs, evidence of a disturbing trap lain by vagabond criminals in the garbage-strewn woods fringing the dried-out river.
The novel, itself, I realize is a shamelessly hyperbolic novelization of my memories. After all, when asked to write about yourself, you are asked to write about what goes in your head. You are asked, in essence, to write a novel.
Your whole life is a commentary on your own life. A memoir then is twice-removed from the commentary that occurred in the inscrutable heat of certain moments. The actions that accrue to fill your life are forever obscured by the language we enact to describe, expand, and rationalize these actions. Often, language itself -- as in when we say: I love you, or: I'm scared -- are our only actions. This makes writers of us all.
It is my attempt, as a first-time novelist, to ring out a singular cover story for all the paranoias and fascinations and failures of a life up to the point of an early thirty-year old's. For me, the best cover-story is something out of folklore. Of caves, and tunnels, and gardens, and hidden realms. This is best because it is the least likely.
Of course, for better or for worse, I have to take into account the recent calamitious changes in my own life that rest themselves upon daily-shifting plates of illusion and ambiguity. The plate tectonics of love which shift more timorously than any of the earth's bones.
I think the biggest betrayal for the "lad" of the novel is that his abiding love for life, and for the world, must constantly combat the constant dissolution of love and community and transcendence. Now, the latter is a phrase I wonder at. It's a big word used by early American philosophers to denote, well what? That nature will save us? That God is in the trees? I don't know really. But I think it might strive for: better than what we worry we actually are.
If, from the very beginning, you are led to believe that your passion for union will do you well and that, as a life skill, it is the one to cultivate at expense of all others, what happens when this passion is compromised at every turn by alienation, weakness and refusal? Well, that's reality -- in one sense -- and one sense among many senses, I suppose. Mine, this character's, a poor city-dweller's, a citizen of the current recession, a woman living in fear of an acid attack, a homeless man in the park fearing the intervention of a cop or a vigilante, a child fearing the violent appraisal of a failed father, a mother fearing for her general well-being. Amidst all this panic, the sound of a car alarm brings all the banality home to roost.
How do you act like an adult in a world hell-bent on its own destruction? Where are the adults in countries that are drowning in debt, and poverty, and tyranny? Where is maturity in a blind acceptance of ecological decimation?
That is the question, I think. To act like a child would be to acquiesce to a naivete that would be all but renunciatory. But to renounce life would leave you with -- what?
I suppose art strives to pose these questions and, failing to answer them, to pose other questions that are at least more hopeful in their potential answerability -- in life's battered continuance.