Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Great American Novel

My husband always says that I should write a novel. I have no idea where he gets the idea that I am capable of such a feat - but it is an interesting idea to entertain. I have about 20 half finished novels and some new novel ideas, but so does everyone.

A novel is more than an idea. It is not a knock knock joke, a one liner. A novel is not just a good idea - it is the unfolding and refolding and crumpling up and tossing on the floor of everything that surrounds that idea. What novel should I write? I ask my husband. Write that novel about Detroit. I had a idea about a novel that follows generations of a detroit family through immigration, the automotive revolution, and finally to current decay. "How should I start?" I ask. "Dont try to write War and Peace." My husband replies. That is actually very good advice. But the Detroit novel really does seem to have a War and Peace scale, so I try and pick up another idea. Ok - I was thinking about something golem related. For some reason I have been thinking about Golem stories. I have a nascent screenplay on a Golem and World War 2. I also love Jewish esoteric stories (the hasidic tales, tales of nachman) - I like weird esoteric stories in general. So I was thinking about combining the two. A group of jews hiding one night from the pogroms in early 19c russia stay up all night telling stories. Shamelessly stealing from the Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and other stories in a story. I love framing devices almost as much as the stories they frame. I started writing this but all I got was a frame. A fictional story of my grandmother writing down her recollections from this night 50 years later. And my possession of this manuscript after her death, via my aunt. I actually had a beginning and an ending and all i need to do was fill it with stories. This has proven more difficult that I first thought. (I was also inspired by The Manuscript of Saragasso)

I was going to do 10 stories based on the 10 Sephirot (levels of creation) based on Kabalistic ideas. The first story I was writing was based on Daat (knowledge) and was a fictional account of Spinoza - really a glass grinder in Amsterdam. I was playing with ideas of rationality, speculation. But that is all I got - no plot ! I am thinking that there should be a video game based on the 10 sephirot. Maybe I should do that instead.

Being stymied, I decided to get into shape by writing short stories. Short stories are a different beast than novels - and I think most novelist dont get this. At the moment I am enjoying the short stories of George Saunders - he writes some dystopic fiction about amusement parks or modes of entertainment. Really great stuff. Since I was reading about vagueness in philosophy - I thought it would be interesting to write a story that explores vagueness. I sketched out a story about a bunch of adolescent girls who go to an amusement park and the different rides they can take based on the 'You are this high' mark - a sort of exploration of living in vague territory. I was going to end it with a death - but that was really a bummer. I really could not get behind it. It did not seem like a story I would write. And it really did not have a 'turn', a strong idea. A short story is sort of like a knock knock joke. Maybe I should write some science fiction.

This post was written while listening to passion pit.


  1. Transduction is a problem with how we do the translation, it's the most important whatever we try, do games such as pokerchums or on any issue also takes hard work, Short stories are a different beast than novels tks for sharing

  2. I really enjoy this post. I spend great time, reading it. It's interesting topic and it's great, that author decided to write about it. Seems like he's broad minded person. I would like to read his another posts with great pleasure. It can be my inspiration. toko herbal

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