[Note: Part 1 is here.]
25. Novels are hard, not like diamonds but like fate, the choice you make that reveals it was never a choice at all.
26. Then it is the novel as jailer. You in a small dark room with no answers to any of your questions and no one seems to hear your pleas, not for for days, months, years. Indifferent the entire time to all requests for visits or freedom. Hard labor too.
27. Or novels can be Champagne Charlies. The limo pulls up, there’s cash, a stocked bar and an entourage. A boyfriend/girlfriend you haven’t met already mad at you for not calling enough, arms crossed, pretty face steamed.
28. Or it is the Fugitive, arrives at night through an open window. Not quite a dream, it carries a work order signed by the president of your own dream factory. You strain to recognize your handwriting.
29. As the work proceeds, the factory is near the roads leading back and forth to the jails and the Champagne Charlies can be seen headed in and out. Sometimes it is clear that the prisoners and the party are trading places (the entourage fits in the cell). Sometimes not.
30. The Fugitive leans at the window, watches, has guessed the limo and the cell are the same.
31. Or it is a Lover. It is impatient, it wants you to know everything. And it won’t stop until it’s done. Factory, cell, limo, it doesn’t matter where you are or with who: the conversation will not stop. It is not endless but is long, it is longer than the writer can contain, and so it gets written down and is born that way.
32. This being because a novel is a thought that is too long to fit in your head all at once until after it is written or read.
33. It is not shorter then. Your hats still fit. But inside you there’s more room.
34. Think of a dream with the outer surface of a storm and the inside like the surface of your days as you have sometimes found them. The novel being the only way to lead anyone to the entrance of those days.
35. Or it is a stranger on the street, walking up to you, grabbing you by the lapel and walking away with you quickly, with passports, money. You fall in love as you leave immediately, together.
36. The novel coming not from the mind but the heart, which is why it cannot fit in your head. Why, when you hear it, it seems to be singing from somewhere just out of your sight, always.
37. Meanwhile, or the duration of the novel your heart can believe it is a liberator. You will not deny it this belief as you do at other times in your life because you are distracted by the story. It is why you love novels more than you think you do when you read them.
38. You discover you are in love with the unmet ending—or rather, you long for it. It is the radio station that plays from your radio only when it is in this one corner of the room, which is to say, at the center of your chest.
39. The heart’s ruse is nearly over. This entire time, it has convinced the novel it was only following along.
40. This entire time the game it has played with the novel was like the date that begins with love’s possibility but ends with the memory of the other, the one you lost or who lost you and who you fooled yourself into thinking was gone from your heart forever, but instead put on a mask, that of the stranger who you kiss against the wall in the street at night.
41. Of course a novel is also a mask.
42. Not for the novelist. Not for the reader. But for something else the novelist brings in from the back of the tent like a lion on a chain.
42. Do not notice the slashes in the novelist’s shirt, the welts along the arms and legs. Do not try and decipher them. If the lighting is right you will see them only when you have the chain in your hands and you are ready to let go. You will remember then. The cuts will make you try to imagine what the novelist went through. This is also a fiction but you will not write it down and it will leave on the wake of the next thought you have.
43. Unless of course you are also a novelist and then it is sometimes your next novel. You wake to realize you are in the back of the tent.