100 Things About A Novel, Part 3

If the novel inside you looked like a message t-shirt.

44. I think of each of them like a visitor from another planet, the sentences being like the circuits to a vast and beautiful machine that communicates the creature.

45. Or a distant relation I’ve never met, from another country and with a language barrier between us. He tries on clothes and wigs I give him, he hops on one leg and makes strange animal noises, and soon I have the wig, I am hopping, hopping, hopping.

46. With my other hand I am taking notes.

47. Everyone has a novel in them, people like to say. They smile when they say it, as if the novel is special precisely because everyone has at least one.  Think of a conveyor belt of infant souls passing down from Heaven, rows of tired angels pausing to slip a paperback into their innocent, wordless hearts.

48. So perhaps the novel we all have is actually more like our original sin.

49. If it is like the soul, it is the soul you can share. Like the Gnostic one, externalized, with a womb.

50. And what if the novel in you is one you yourself would never read? A beach novel, a blockbuster, a long windy character-driven literary drama that ends sadly? What if the one novel in you is the opposite of your idea of yourself?

51. Novelists then like a circus attraction with many limbs, a horse with eight legs or three faces, or two heads.

52. Now we are back in a tent, but another tent altogether, that of a circus.

53. We discover we are the animal made to learn tricks to please something with a whip.

54. Kneeling in the sawdust, juggling plates, we hope the crowd cheers, though we cannot see them past the lights.

55. All the while, we know in some cultures we would be revered as gods. Others, put to death.

56. Of course this almost never happens.

57. And then it does.

58. The novel for which you can be killed is a picture someone is trying to hide of what is inside whoever it is threatening to kill you for writing it.

59. You did not know this was what you were doing, you were only trying to take a picture of the landscape. You thought of yourself as a bystander, you saw something you thought you should try to say this way. In the corner of the photo, something you do not quite recognize, not right away.

60. When you look closely at the picture, in it is a map left behind by a stranger that says This is the way to the treasure, and then this is the way o—

61. The piece that is missing, hidden somewhere but calling, describing itself to you from behind the walls of your days.

62. Would it be beautiful or devastating to write the one novel if it was the only one you had? And what then, to discover that was the one?

63. Perhaps sometimes the angels are tired and out of their hands slips not one novel but 5, 12, 100. 1000.

64. They will never come back for them, but when they appear, smile quietly, instead, passing invisibly through the bookstore, remembering.

65. Remembering that in fact no one has only one.

[Part 1, Part 2]

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9 thoughts on “100 Things About A Novel, Part 3

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Don’t judge, but I got to #50 and then started humming “All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus.” Which makes me ask, what if the novel in me is a Britney song?

  2. Elizabeth Stark says:

    You always go somewhere that surprises me, in these multi-part blogs. I see that this is because you are not doing what has been done before, what might be expected, what I could do myself. Which is to say, you are the real thing, a writer. Thank you. You conjured up things I’d forgotten by describing what I had never seen.

  3. J says:

    55-58, and I’m almost in tears.

    So says this Muslim feminist, writing.

    It is the desire to be read pressed against the fear that someone might read your work. Or, shouting into a soft cloth stuffed between the lips.

    Thank you for writing this.

  4. Carolee says:

    When I forget why I am writing or can’t find the thread I was working, I come here and read this. It all comes back.

    Thank you.

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