Sunday, December 19, 2010

Best Wishes for a Bright New Year!

Meanwhile Back in 2010...

I apologize to readers of this blog for the long break between posts. National Novel Writing Month took literally every spare second of my day. I admire those participants who seemed to be able to both write and post in November but freely admit that there was no way I could make that happen! And while I crossed the deadline with more than the 50K words required to be a NaNoWriMo winner, I still have a lot of work to do before I can claim the victory of a solid submission draft.

Until I'm able to start some writerly posts again, I’m say goodbye to the old year by the classic expedient of posting some top ten lists (cross-posted to another of my blogs).  Only a few of these have to do with the experience of writing, but they're all are part of the experience of this writer!

My top 10 2010 experiences (chronologically)
  • Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA
  • Trip to Venice & Barcelona with Mom (special mention: dinners at Alle Testiere, Venice and Cal Pep, Barcelona; the roof of La Pedrera)
  • Designing/knitting a lace shrug
  • A Week in Tuscany (special mention: Uffizi Gallery in Florence; Duomo di Siena) 
  • Having a piece published by Smithsonian Online
  • The Pantheon in Rome
  • A day in Pompeii
  • Tweets from History portion of my personal 3 month "extreme writing" challenge
  • Making Paella
  • NaNoWriMo (ending @ a proud 67,845 words)

Top 10 books I read in 2010 (alphabetically)
  • A Map of Glass (Jane Urquhart)
  • American Gods (Neil Gaiman). 
  • The Confessions of Edward Day (Valerie Martin)
  • Cyteen (C J Cherryh)
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery) 
  • Fantastical Feasts (Heston Blumenthal)
  • Four Freedoms (John Crowley)
  • The Imperfectionists (Tom Rachman)
  • One Day (David Nicholls)
  • Shades of Grey (Jasper Fforde)
NOTE: I fell very behind in my reading due to NaNoWriMo.  Full expecting to be wowed by Connie Willis' 'Blackout' and 'All Clear', WIlliam Gibson's 'Zero History' and David Mitchell'd 'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet'

Top 10 film and television I saw in 2010 (alphabetically)
  • City Island
  • Doctor Who, Series 5 (aka season 31)
  • Eureka, season 4.0
  • Get Low
  • Inception
  • The Kids are Alright
  • Mad Men, season 4
  • The Social Network
  • Temple Grandin
  • The Tudors, season 4
NOTE: looking forward to catching up on film during next 3 weeks run-up to SAG Awards voting, especially 'The King's Speech', 'Black Swan', ‘Another Year’ and 'Winter's Bone' 

Top 10 music I started listening to in 2010 (alphabetically by artist)
  • Amy Macdonald: This is the Life
  • Anssi Karttunen: Saariaho: Du Cristal
  • Cyndi Lauper: Memphis Blues
  • Florence & The Machine: Lungs
  • The Like: Release Me
  • Nellie McKay: As Normal As Blueberry Pie
  • Of Montreal: Coquilecot Asleep in the Poppies
  • Rasputina: Thanks for the Ether
  • Steve Reich: Double Sextet/2x5
  • Vampire Weekend: Contra

Sunday, October 31, 2010

And We're Off!!!

November begins at midnight and my life adjusts for National Novel Writing Month. For the entire month of November, all waking “personal” hours (i.e. hours not included in the salaried work day) will be dedicated to writing as much as I possibly can of my new steampunk (more or less) novel.

I’ve got a nice new “Decomposition” notebook (you have to love the stuff you can find in the shops around Hallowe’en!) tucked into my bag so that I can write on the subways and during lunch during the week, and of course I’ll be writing every night. The weekends may take me back to the experience of writing my college History thesis – write until my head explodes, sleep for a couple of hours, write some more. If I don’t stop for fifteen minutes to worry over the exact right word (my favorite act of procrastination) and if I don’t stumble over any massive plotting potholes, I should be able to push out a lot of words.

What I won’t be doing in November is socializing, either face-to-face, on the phone or online. I’m advising friends and followers alike to expect only the briefest of blast bulletins from me, and I thank you all in advance for your forbearance and support.

Be seeing you!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Next Up: NaNoWriMo!

You’ve probably gathered by this time (3/4’s through October!) that I’d decided not to do another historic tweet.  Yes, as I’ve written elsewhere, this project turned out to be oddly satisfying.  With this project, I was able to create three minimalist novels.  When I read through each one (as you can, too, if you navigate down the page), I find believable characters who tell real stories that I can follow and enjoy.  I marvel at the feat -- all of this was written in bursts of 140 characters or less.  And I’m the one who wrote them! 

I don’t usually blow my own horn, but this time I have to; I set myself a ridiculous challenge and I pulled it off.  Now I feel a great sense of freedom. Readers of this blog know that I’ve been searching to find ways to reconcile my vocation (writing uncategorizable novels) with contemporary, primarily digital, reality.  As far as I’m concerned, I’ve done it.  I have proven to my own satisfaction that I can make this medium do what I want it to do.  It doesn’t matter whether or not I had readers or made a dime.  I did it.  And that’s what makes artists happy (in that strange, often grim, artist-like way).

Crazy though Twitter novels (and the whole Extreme Writing challenge it was part of) may have seemed, I’m now moving on to a crazier challenge.  I’ve decided to write a steampunk novel….No, that’s not the crazy part!  In many ways, I’m well-suited to writing steampunk.  I’ve spent a lot of years in the 19th century and it turns out that much of what I enjoy reading and watching is at least tangentially allied with the genre (according to current buzz).  For a number of reasons, I’ve been searching for a genre I could write in for even longer than I’ve been on the “blovel” hunt, and when “steampunk!” recently went off like a cartoon lightbulb above my head, I didn’t want to waste a minute getting started.  Here’s where the big crazy comes it:  the story idea presented itself just as Scrivener (a great app for fiction writers) emailed a reminder that National Novel Writing Month was coming soon.

During NaNoWriMo, insane writers sign on to try and spew out a novel.  Starting from scratch (new stories only!), 50K words in one month. The logic behind it is that writers need deadlines.  You also get a built-in support group of others trying to do the same thing; if nothing else, it means there are people who will understand your screams!  Including commuting time, my job-that-pays-the-bills-while-I’m-wishing-I-could-get-paid-to-write-fiction eats up 11 hours of each weekday.  That doesn’t leave a lot of writing time, and surely not enough to push out 50K words.  Even if it did, this story is bigger that that.  But NaNoWriMo is a brilliant opportunity to jump start a new project, so I signed on.  Gulp!

Til then, I'm organizing my ideas -- characters, alternative history divergence points, ripping yarn components -- but starting November 1, I'm a steampunk fiction writing machine (hmmmmmmm.......)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


For those who may have missed an entry or two, here are the collected tweets of Adeline Thorne, Oxford Scholar and Titanic Passenger.  Addie’s was the final in a series of three stories told as tweets-from-history.  This project was a sub-set of my three-month Extreme Writing self-challenge.  To see what I have to say about this experience, visit Light Up the Cave

*Caught Roper wearing the most appalling painted stockings. Sets back the cause of women's degrees 20 years!
*More 2 do than hours of the day. What does it say about me as a scholar that I'd rather be reading Zuleika Dobson?
*Slept 5 hrs of last 48, & not sequentially. Living on stewed tea. Hair a greasy mop. Ah, the joy of education!
* Sat my final exam 2day.  My FINAL final exam.  Not certain of results but still more nerves about America than any exam.
* 2 busy 2 think & just as well.  Big trunk packed & taken away, also three boxes of books.  Next I see them, we will all be in New York.
* Walking from the High, saying goodbye 2 trees & stone walls.  Why does everything ordinary seem so precious when you’re leaving it behind?
*No idea how women dress in New York.  Do I need a new hat? Or do I just want that one with the velvet pansies?
*2 cold 2 punt but didn't care! Must whilst I can. Don't think they have punts in America.  What do they do at those Universities? :)
*2day, last time typing petitions for WSPU.  2nite will b cocoa party in Maude's room.  Final cocoa party.  Everything today so final!
*Vi Roper is engaged! 2 the Paper Baronet of all things! We all laughed, but she is so happy. I won't b here for wedding. It all sinks in.
* Kind lttr fr cousin Simon.  I will be met at dock & shown city. Asks if I wld like 2 see The Pigeon. Missed it @ Royalty. World so small!
*Salve Oxford.  Salve St. Hilda’s.  Piece of my heart left behind.  Wld I b this sad were I staying in England? Father wld have known 
*Oh, London! Must memorize every corner with my heart!  So grateful 2 Maude & the W's 4 having me 2 stay these final weeks.
*Met Maude’s brother Desmond, back from Germany. Very kind & well spoken, as she always said.  Beautiful eyes & such shoulders!
 * All day signing papers w Mr Martens. Father's box rcvd from safekeeping, too. Have rcvd tkt from his hands. No going back now
*Rainy day looking through box.  Father’s watch; their letters & dear faces. Hope Mother’s Limoges arrived safely. All that is left of home
*Tea with Roper.  Aglow & all talk about wedding. Wants me 2 come back 4 it.  Can’t bear 2 admit I will be 2 skint. Made polite noises. 
* Something about voyage makes me want 2 shop. Silliness!  They do have stores in NY.  Still taking no chances w boots!  Bought both pair. 
* Jermyn St 4 gift for Cuz Si. Also Mr. & Mrs. W 4 their kindness.  Des such a help.  Must ask Maude what he likes. Lovely noil scarf 4 her.
* Maude envisions shipboard romance.  Doubtful.  Remember crossing 2 France? Shall likely b green the entire way.
* Much buoyed. Ran into Em et al. Boston cousin took degree @ Vassar! Said fine things & is giving me lttrs of intro 2 friends nearby.  
* Des cinema-crazy. The Sunbeam – charming in a way, but foolish.  Sez Mr Griffith a force 2 b reckoned w. Wants 2 come 2 NY to work w him
* Exceptionally fine day. Will not b here for Easter so debuted new blue hat with ribbon bow & aigrette. Everyone says is quite fetching.
* Maude & Des insist on accompanying me 2 Southampton. Am weak enuff 2 accept. Will b that much harder in end, but want 2 hold every minute 
* Tea w Jonesy & little Kate.  Browsing new books @ WH Smith.  Like always. Hard 2 believe am not going back up 4 Trinity, but getting excited
* Restless. Must have walked 5 miles 2day.  Said all goodbyes. Already feel as if gone. Am ready now for an adventure!
* How to pack 4 ocean crossing? Only small case in cabin. Trunk will go below. Shld not have shopped quite so much! Mrs W kindly advising
* Beautiful surprise for last nite in town.  Simpsons on the Strand. Mr. W says making certain I have good English beef inside to see me off
* Longest train ride. All trying so not to cry. Silly jokes & gossip. Such love for these friends. Foolish 2 hope Des may visit NY for Mr. G?
* Boarding now. Will have no chance to write til arrive NY.  My heart leaps at sight of boat. The future - how beautiful!  Titanic! Adeline

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Introducing your narrator for September.

Adeline Thorne is the daughter of a recently-deceased scholar whose pension and subsidized residence have expired with him, leaving her with only a tiny inheritance. Required to make her own way in life, she accepts the offer of a cousin to work at a women’s college in New York. She must reluctantly end her studies at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford and take her leave of friends and everything familiar. Despite her sadness, she is excited by the adventure and the future is starting to look bright as she heads for America…on the Titanic.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


As promised, here are the collected tweets of Margret Mylton of Roanoke.  To see what I have to say about month 2 of the Extreme Writing experience, visit Light Up the Cave
tomorrow.  And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow to meet your narrator for the month of September! 

*It gets no easier to keep the Sabbath.  My Spirit yearns but there is 2  much needs doing. Will this Rough Land ever b home?
*Minded young Virginia.  It pains me 2 think my own Danyel wld have been Walking by now.  I worry for the one I carry.  I must b Strong
* Walked on the Sand. Sea so lovely! Sandpipers :)  Laughed and cried.  Am so foolish when I’m gravid – happysadhappysad! 
*Good thing about Drowt? --Wot Herbs did survive it have dried well. In this if nothing else r stores will suffice.
*Properly roasted over coals, Snake tastes more like Chyken than like Eel.  Can this b dried as Croatoans do Meat? 
*W. Sole is indeed courting Roanoke Maid.  Neither village happy.  Sole warned 2 b Cautious.  We may have 2 leave sooner than planned
*Thot I lost my best Needyl! Praise, twas stuck in my good Cap.  Good cap getting less so.  Soon we may have to leave off Caps.    
*After prayers, read in my commonplace Book.  Surprised how much I have learned and writ about Herb Lore these 2 years. 
*Weary of crab and Fyshe. Know I shld b Grateful but yearn so for Meat.  Dreamed last nite of venison.
*Next deerskin -- if ever -- Joan & I will try 2 make some Mocka-san boots as they do.  R boots are nought but Patch
* Manteo brought herb woman 2c Samuel.  Poultice new 2 me. Must learn 2 speak their language. I say Magwitch repeatedly; think this is thnx
*Geese in Flyte. Tom & Sole browt some Down w theyr Bows.  Manteo much impressed. Now this land 2 will speak of the skill of English Archers!
*Dare 2 rtn with Manteo & be our Scout.  He takes with him all our questions & Prayers.  Ellenor shews her Sire’s dignity & Blinks not.
*Rain @ last!  2 layt for Growing & not much. Enuf 2 refresh.  Stood with Elinor & Agnes behind woodpile in r shifts with Hair down.  Ahh!!
*Samuel is failing. Special prayers for him @ Service, but fear tis God’s Will he leave us. We have Lost so many.
*Samuel has Passed.  He will be much mourned. My Thomas looks so thin & worn. I reach for him often & Fear to find him Gone.
*Used the last of the Weet Flowr 4 a rising.  The starter I have from my Mother's Hearth.  My heart breaks. I must find a Way to keep it live.
*So much rendered Goose Grease 2 store but where? Finally a use 4 chamber Pot Gov Whyte left behind with Ellenor!
* Elennor 2 is again w child. We wept 2gether & swore 2 b Mothers & Sisters to 1 another.  What would I b without her & Joan & Agnes?
* I wld lief bury my Commonplace Book 4 them 2 find. Thom says foolish; where we r going,  I will need what Wisdom it contains
* children must learn their Letters.  Idea! will make chapbooks from Byrch. Ash & Grease, 4 ink we have in surfeit! good project 4 Winter
* After Prayers, Thom & I walked on the Sand & unburdened our Hearts. There is a Blessed Peas from this, & Lyteness
* We cannot have enuff Baskets!  We Weeve endlessly, fingers Chapt & Bleeding. Agnes most resorsfull but still we wurry we have 2 few Reeds. 
* Not kynd to Laff @ those boys, but so funny to see Feathers everywhere!  Next time, they’ll know to ask the Women to do it!
* Dare rtnd, Praise Him. So much 2 tell. Agnes most excited – there will be Clay 4 her. Am pleased 4 her gladness; she has suffered so.
* The men are taking down the buildings.  Must save all Nayles & hinges.  All ironwerk more Precious to us now than Gold.
* Just as it took Root, our small bit of England must be Dug Up again!  We women will not leave our Rosemary & Lavender & brier Rose.
*Sole has gone.  What he did not Take was left on his pallet with a Note saying Godspeed.  Godspeed to him & his Crenepo, if 2 her he went.
*Our last Sabbath on this Spot.  We shall build a Tabernacle in the Wilderness.  Yet again.  Praise Him keep us.
* 2nite we Feast on all we will not Carry.  We wear what Best we have, & sing & Dance in joyful Festival.  We must meet the future with Joy
*Can w8 no longer. Thomas is carving a message in the tree 4 Govnr White.  Croatoan. He will understand. Yrs Margret Mylton

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Introducing Your Narrator for August!

Despite their joint lack of prospects, Margret, the middle of seven children and one of three daughters of a Clapham farrier, had married Thomas, a London bricklayer and tiler, recently articled.  The Myltons had been married little more than a year when Thom was enticed by the adventure proposed by a fellow bricklayer working at St. Bride's Church.  In 1587, the Mytons left London with Ananias Dare and his wife Eleanor, to forge a new life in the New World, in a place called (after its native inhabitants) Roanoake.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Full Blast from Pompeii

As promised, here are the collected tweets of Vibiana of Pompeii.  For some writerly impressions of first month of Extreme Writing, visit me @ Light Up the Cave
And don’t forget to check back here tomorrow to meet your narrator for the month of August! 

* Got new sandals @ the forum.  Exquisitus maior! Greek, of course. They always make the best.  $$$, but Caius says I have pretty feet : )
* Poor Arva.  Another marriage negotiation come to 0.  She sez she’d rather join the vestals.  Her pater sez not with his fortune she’s not
* The earrings Rufus gave Nicia -- sooo bellus!  Silver lilies with pearl.  Wonder if Caius will ever give me jewels.  Sigh.
* Walking by the Lupanare. Iulia stared @ the girls in coin girdles. Child thought they were princesses. LOL!  Sandals pinch, but still bellus
* The Oracle is spouting direness.  Nicia says nobody listens 2 oracles any more.  Banquet 2morrow @ Celia's
* Never NEVER hire those Frankish acrobats 4 yr banquet.  Total disaster!  I thot Celia wld die!
* Scandal! Rufus gave Daria the same earrings as Nicia!  Guess he thot they still weren’t speaking.  They r n’t now!  
* Still on the waiting list @ bibliotheca 4 that scroll of Silo the Younger.  Arva says it’s trash.  I can only hope, LOL!
* Went 2 gather wax for thread.  Bees are gone.  Weird. Logas says it’s a bad omen.  I say that’s slave superstition.  Thots, any1?
*  Nicia’s dropping Rufus 4 Zeno.  He may b old & lame, but has $$$ and wld never give 2 woman the same jewel. He has sweet smile.
*  Saw Caius & his Pater @ the forum looking v serious.  Talking about me?? Ye gods! I’m going 2 fast 2nite & make an offering @ dawn 
* No sleep last night. Caius outside temple - had 2 hide so he wldn't c me w circles under eyes. So much hope offering was pleasing.
*  Banquet @ the Satria.  Rufus with Daria. Nicia so drunk, she tried 2 dance w that bronze faun that stands by the impluvium.  Zeno not : )
*  Nicia's cousin Marius sez Caius' Pater doesn't think my familia is high enough 4 him.  How mean is that?!  I h8 Marius
* the Cassii are visiting from Rome. 1st time since Sextus died. So much sadness for that familia. There will be many banquets now :)
* I wanted 2 make an egg dish 4 cena 2day, but there were hardly any. The slaves says the hens have almost stopped laying. Very strange
* Many banquets indeed! Every1 is after new tunics. Eumachian stalls look like a sardine run. Pater must allow me or what will Caius think?
*  Ye gods! What is Pater thinking? ! don't care who his people r! Varus is a baby and his skin is like bad fish.  O Caius, save me!
* Arva’s reading Naturalis Historia – & liking it! No wonder her Pater is tearing his hair out.  She’ll never find a husband that way.
* Saw that new wrestler over @ the palaestra. Fervens maxiumus! Nicia practically drooling.  Thot  Zeno wld have a fit – then where wld she b?
*  The Vulcanalia games will b the best ever!  The Satria have asked me 2 sit in their box. Now Pater must let me have a new tunic!
*  Fresco @ villa of Julia Felix w a satyr that looks exactly like Rufus – swear 2 the gods!  U totally have 2 c this!  
*  Doleo!  Caius' pater has contracted him 2 Tertia of the Cencii.  That's why they came 2 town.  I hate the Cencii!  Caius 2! I want 2 die!!!
* Plume of smoke from the mtn. Not only Iulia sez so.  C if I care! What good wld the Cencii do Caius then? Mater sez don't b stupid
* Tertia of the Cencii is only 12 & flat as a boy. Arva sez since Sextus died last yr, dowry is plurimus maximus. O greedy Caius, U slay me!
* Dark circles from crying.  Mater sez if I appear in Satria box like this I'll never find husband. She told Pater I must have new tunic.
* More smoke. Mater worried. They're sacrificing 5 white calves @ Temple of Jupiter. Pater says that shld do the trick, esp w games so soon
*  Games will b torture!  Marius sez Caius is making public appearance with Cencii. Their box next 2 Satria. I will take poison & die b4 I go!
* Thx Mater 4 new tunic. Exquisitus maior! No1 wld ever take me 4 a boy - even Nicia wishes she had my shape. Caius will b sooo sorry!
* Games mirabilis!  Turns out I was invited 4 Satria cousin who looks like Apollo.  Talked 2 me the whole time. Caius burning. Who cares?!
* Something has happened. Sky is black with. Feel heat.  Must run NOW.  F U read this, pray 4 us!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Introducing your narrator for July!

Vibiana, the author of July’s Tweets-from-history, lives in a charming spot on the Mediterranean.  Like most of her friends, she spends her days helping with the numerous tasks at home, including keeping a watchful eye on her younger sister, Iulia.  Vibiana loves parties, shopping and the adorable Caius, who she dreams of marrying.  She’s a typical young woman of her time and place, the time being 79 AD and the place, a little town called Pompeii.

For more Worlds of Wordcraft, visit me during the month @ Light Up the Cave

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Blovel Project Starting July 1

Yes, you read that right!   My next adventure in post-digital fiction will make its debut on July 1.  The new project, like the last one, will run through Twitter.

I read three main categories of tweets.  There are tweets from companies (or people who are companies), which are out there for marketing, keeping a profile high and maybe occasionally giving some useful information.  There are rollouts, usually intense bombardments over a narrow period of time, to get the word out about an event/disaster/cause.

And then there are the brain farts.  Sorry, but I've mulled this over for hours and there's simply no more elegant way to describe them.  This is what most of us do -- blurt out whatever is in our heads at the moment.  Off to the mall; fingers crossed they have the jeans!  Why do cafeteria's always smell like tuna and oranges?  Fat sweaty guys should have to wear shirts on the subway.  How can the beach be closed on the hottest day of summer??

Those kinds of things.

SO, figuring that while times change, people really don't, I started wondering about what people might have tweeted once upon another time.  For the new project, I'll be picking a different time and place each month, and putting myself in the head of someone who might have lived then/there.  Not rulers or genius or people who otherwise wandered into recorded history. Just ordinary people.  Like me.  Like us. And every day of that month, in the voice of that person, I'll be issuing one tweet.  Together, each month's tweets will have a story arc.  I'm committing to a series of three sets, to run over July, August and September.

Readers can follow me on Twitter (@loriberhon) and read the tweets as they're posted.  Alternatively, they can be read altogether, at month's end when the month's entire set of tweets will be gathered into a single post right here on the Blovel blog site.

The next post on this website will introduce your Guest Tweeter for the month of July.

be seeing you!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Good Night, Sweet Prints

So, once again, I haven’t been writing. I got bored with the “twitter novel” (I'm just not the 140 character type) There’s been no happy news about ‘The Breast of Everything’. And in my actual paycheck job, I’ve learned some new and incredibly discouraging things about Search Engine Optimization and have spent most of the last two work weeks churning out what amounts to spam (in aid of a corporate initiative tied to the aforementioned SEO). This is a pretty soul-killing task. I could rattle off a chain of comparisons, but as imagination isn’t much in vogue and as I don’t know who might read this post and therefore can’t guess which would hit the requisite “just like me!” note, I won’t bother.
All in all, it’s difficult to dredge up the energy to forge ahead with ‘Chasing Fireflies’, a book I very much want to write but which I assume (also very much) will be unlikely to ever find a publishing home. Then today I opened up the NY Times Book Review section.
Dear Reader, if you are a reader-reader, you’re now waiting for me to say that this issue completely changed my perspective and that I am now full to the brim with boundless enthusiasm and will be plunging into Fireflies with a hearty will to complete it by New Year’s Eve. That’s the literary conceit behind the way in which the last two paragraphs were set up, isn’t it?
Well, I’m tossing the conceit on its ear, which is the only sensible thing to do considering that there very soon won’t be any readers who would expect or understand such conceits. No, it’s not me being the voice of doom (for a change). It’s the June 5, 2010 NY Times Book Review.
Jonathan Franzen’s article ‘A Strindberg Family Robinson: Rereading ‘The Man Who Loved Children’‘ opens with the following gambit. “…haven’t we all secretly sort of come to an agreement, in the last year or two or three, that novels belonged to the age of newspapers, and are going the way of newspapers, only faster? ...novels are a curious moral case, in that we feel guilty about not reading more of them but also guilty about doing something as frivolous as reading them; and wouldn’t we all be better off with one less frivolous thing in the world to feel guilty about?”
He goes on to make everyone want to read the book, but by way of making it an exception. Franzen, who was quoted earlier this year in The Guardian as believing “It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction” apparently has extended that to apply to reading good fiction. An interesting stance for a man who has a new novel coming out this fall. And a grim prognosis for those of us who, unlike Franzen, can’t guarantee a publisher an audience cultivated over 20+ years to buy this now marginal form of writing from him.
Danielle Trussoni’s review of ‘The Same River Twice’, by Ted Mooney considers that “… readers must often choose between ‘literary fiction,’ understood to be works of well-written but meandering prose about the ‘real world’ of human relationships, and ‘commercial fiction,’ fast-paced novels in which plot is everything. The literary is assumed to be cerebral and artistic, the commercial mindless and entertaining. One suspects that nobody is completely happy with this divide. So it is a joy to discover, every once and a while, a writer whose prose and plotting take something from both camps.”
Trussoni goes on to give a joyfully positive review of this book, bolstering the possibility that a book can fall outside the market divisions and succeed (I wish she’d given a big thumbs up to Knopf for daring to publish such a shocking hybrid). This should have made me cheer. The inability to be easily categorized has long stood in the way of my own work (I’m not ‘commercial’ and, to quote at least one editor, I’m “not poetic enough” to be considered ‘literary’). For multiple generations, our citizens have been carefully trained to accept only that which can be understood of one of an easily identifiable group. A nation built on the myth of individualism now absolutely requires typing and labeling in every avenue of life. In positing that this might not be the happiest state of affairs in the neighborhood of fiction, Trussoni is waving a brave little handkerchief from behind the barricades. But her comments speak to the scope of issue. What she doesn’t note is that even when one of these slippery creations succeeds in the market the publishers, producers, etc. don’t take it as a sign to open the doors to more idiosyncratic products. Instead, they turn all their energies into finding copies of the first, because profit isn’t profit unless it’s a blockbuster (thank you, stock market). A “maverick” may have once meant an unbranded range animal, but now it’s one of the most Identifiable brands on the market.
For those outdated enough to care, this is the point where a well-written article is supposed to have a conclusion. This isn’t a well-written essay, it’s a rant. I know I share my frustration with thousands who love fiction, readers and writers alike. If the only new fiction being published comes in a can, readers at least can turn to 200 years of unique minds and voices, but what’s a writer to do except stop.