I wonder why certain novels are considered great art and others are considered frivolous — and in certain cases are considered to be both, albeit at different times.
Seems like the “great art” designation would come into play when a novel is particularly profound and insightful and eminently readable; that is not always true, i.e. Ulysses, by James Joyce (seriously, you cannot convince me it is eminently readable).
So, I assume I cannot write a novel that is profound and insightful and full of art. I assume this because I know myself quite well and have judged me to be incapable of great art. I find myself, though, in a place and time in which I can be capable of quite commendable mediocrity, and that hardly ever translates itself in greatness.
This leads me to this project, this poorly planned and unballyhooed (meaning: without ballyhoo) project, to NOT write the great American novel but instead to simply write a novel which could, someday, be deemed “a mediocre novel written in America”.
I hesitate only because novels tend to delve into messy scenarios and things that may have happened but didn’t actually happen and you go through all this rigmarole and emotional trauma about MADE-UP stuff. Stuff that could happen, though, and so may provide insight into some long-sought universal truth.
And what is the point? To entertain. To connect?
I suppose if I were to ride across county on a bicycle and encounter various adventures, then that could be a story, but: ride a bike all over the country? Hell, no. Then what amazingly and perhaps surprisingly interesting story could I tell. I do not know. I do not.
It took me over fifty years to get where I am and I’ve no intention of writing about all of that, although some of it might be funny or instructive, but bottom line, it was all rather ordinary life. Ordinary me. And I am grateful, without a doubt, for the ordinariness of it all.
I survived polio and Catholicism, a brief bout with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a colonoscopy, not to mention a hysterectomy and the birth of one lovely and magnificent daughter — not necessarily in that order.
I cook. I play the piano quite badly, I dabble in water-color, I study Italian; my motto: anything worth doing badly, is worth doing. I grow vegetables and raspberries each year.
How does all of this coalesce into a coherent story and provide some grist for the mill — assuming writing a novel requires grist….and a mill? It does not. It does not coalesce.
(to be continued)