Going to start a new book today. Been working on the idea for a while now, and it’s time to put fingers to keyboard and give it concrete form. It may well be the last book I write. It is certainly more ambitious than any of the others. More (heavens!) literary. But, as the doctor said to his anxious patient, “I’m afraid that novel in you is going to have to come out.”
Even if it is my last, don’t be concerned. It will take years to finish, and I’ve got about fifteen novels more or less ahead of it awaiting publication. Pushing them out the door one by one. But my friend Elaine keeps telling me I need to write something new, and not keep reworking and updating old stuff. Okay, so I’m writing something new.
I’ve got stacks of notes from hikes I’ve done over the years. Mary, my hiking buddy, has bugged me about writing up my hikes. Lord knows she’s got scads of fantastic photos to go with my accounts. She took the picture of the owl here. I’ve protested that the shelves are loaded with books about hikers’ adventures, particularly the 4,000 footers of NH. The world does not need another one. She tells me that, yes, maybe it’s been done, but not by me.
So I’ll use the notes. But not in the ordinary way, to document a factual account of what happened. This will be fiction. Sort of. After all, any account we give of our lives is a kind of creative writing. We cobble together our fragmented and selective memories, with all their inadvertent fabrications, and come up with a reasonably coherent narrative of our lives. Its actual truth is often up for debate, especially with other folks who were there and remember it completely differently. Who’s right? Who knows?
Moreover, any good piece of fiction is build on fact, on accurate settings and trappings of detail. And on the world as the author has seen it. People the author has known, emotions felt, situations endured or enjoyed. The older one gets the more of life has been composted into a rich black soil in which to grow stories. Where does the truth leave off and the fantasy begin? At what point is the resemblance of the characters to persons living or dead truly coincidental? Who knows? Who cares?
I think I’ll give something different a try, a kind of stream of consciousness, internal monologue sort of thing, but with a definite narrative plot. When I started working with it in my head it seemed promising. We’ll see how long I can sustain it. I suspect it’s probably been done before by somebody. But not by me.
And it will swim in and out of reality like a pod of dolphins streaking through and leaping out of the water. Sort of like those historical novels my cousin the historian hates so much, because it isn’t clear which is fact and which is fiction. Some folks need very clear categories to work with. Right and wrong, black and white, true and false. It’s difficult for them to deal with how liquid reality is, its stubborn refusal to sift itself into convenient pigeon holes. Reality is a non-Newtonian fluid: the harder you punch it, the more solid it seems. Then, when your back is turned, it slips away between your fingers.
For now, the working title is Are We There Yet? A quick Google search tells me that this title has been used. You’d be astonished how many titles are duplicates. There’s no copyright on titles. It was rather confusing when we had at the same time on our New Books shelf at the library, two books with precisely the same title, Life After Life, one by Kate Atkinson and one by Jill McCorkle. So I don’t suppose it matters that the title Are We There Yet? has already be used.
It hasn’t been used by me.