Death Becomes You, Dear Novel

The novel is dead, so eulogizes Will Self, the serious, difficult novel, which I suspect is the so-called literary novel that’s been hanging around on book corners ever since modernism and has caused a few scuffles with readers and critics alike.

I’ve read some of Self’s work. I like that he perambulates long distances. I even enjoy that he pulls words like “benison,” “Gesamtkunstwerk, “Panglossian,” and “melioristic” out of his rattlebag. But, then, when it comes to fiction, I favour Maximalism over minimalism — it’s the cherry picker in me.

But, sod you Self and your aging anxieties that you will cease to be as a writer for being the reason you’ve chosen to write about the death of the novel.

Although I must admit it’s sobering news for a writer like myself who is still brewing in the vats of the emerging writing life. It also brings on a tidal wave of creative anxiety to be told the book is dead even before I’ve even had a chance to get a book published. It’s akin to telling a child don’t bother living because you’re only going to die.

Ok, let’s say the novel is really dead, nails are in the coffin, mourners are dressed in black, and the Gutenberg press weeps tears of ink.

That’s fine by me. Bring on the wake! Let’s open the bubbly and get rip-roaring drunk on the death of the novel because all it means is that the Graustarkian literary standard by which all books are written is now demolished. There is no “great” book left to be written, no “great” writer about to swoop down in a blaze of tweed and pipe smoke to carry off the novices in his golden claws. Anyone now has a chance to write a book — and that includes me. A great new brave world of opportunity knocks. Open Sesame!

Unless, of course, it’s all premised on sell, sell, sell and there will be only a handful of novels that can shift the tectonic plates of the mind to new visions, eclipse and super nova the life of the emotions, and locate the soul in the overwhelming somatic rush of flesh. If the death of the novel is simply leading to a land of mediocrity, then I want to go down the mine with Self and his canaries and face the subterranean gases. I’m not interested enough to live with the endless flow of entertainment toxins that will pass through my body pretending to be art. Thanks, but no thanks. My kidneys are working well enough to know piss when it streams before me.

But if the novel is dead and a panoramic vista of new horizons opens up with the Millennium Falcon on the nearest hill, I’m up for the ride. Let’s park that old literary junker out back and get into something more relevant, more post-postmodern, something that isn’t flashy but is made from the recycled goods of the past. Everything under the sun has been done before, and done better, so let’s space hop to new frontiers on the magic of the past and the literary genius of the moment will become less obvious and more fulfilling.

Why should the death of the novel be such a bad thing? Ovid, a writer, proclaimed the beauty of metamorphosis, the power of mutability over the fragility of things, the freedom of the finite self to the many selves. And what is fiction but a series of little deaths of the selves. A writer dies with each book he or she writes and is reborn again with a new one.

So if the novel is dead, I for one am not going to let it go gentle into that good night. I’m going to rage and fight and get as many words down as possible. I’m going to write as if the devil himself is at my heels and wants my soul for eternity.

The time is ripe to rise like the phoenix from the ashes of dead novels.

Le livre est morte, vive le livre!


Upstairs and Downstairs


Let it be known I’m 20,000 words into a new novel. Or should I say: I’m learning how to write a picaresque novel that’s set in Egypt. That’s Egypt in 1800. I will say no more about it since I’ve learned that the plans you keep secret are the ones most likely to succeed.

I’m a drain right now when it comes to the book and words are running down the sluice and into the aqueducts of perspiration and the little pool of inspiration. Plus, I tried explaining the story to a friend the other day and it all came out in splatterings, gurgles, false starts, confused endings, lopped off plots, and very immaculate conceptions. I should just realize it’s a moveable feast and there’s no plates or table or silver ware, just a glorious heaping of food.

I’m also beginning to think the writing is going a bit like that 70s Brit drama Upstairs, Downstairs, which was the inspiration for Downton Abbey. Just like the class drama, I’ve got my masters and my servants. The main masters are my two lead characters: Armand, an eighteenth-century savant with the messy DNA of Russell Brand, Schopenhauer, the Gray Mouser, Withnail, Howl (from Howl’s Moving Castle), and Black Adder; and Gaspard, an Old Guard in Napoleon’s Grande Armee with the stoical DNA of Percy Fawcett, Fafhrd, Obelix, and One from The City of Lost Children. The other masters are tone, setting, language, and writing from the hip. The servants, who are responding to every bell, are the plot, action and fight sequences, and where the hell is this all heading and what am I doing? But then servants have to serve somebody.

In fact, the real master right now would be to finish this book as quickly as possible, which is a new challenge for me. But if the class struggle in those shows taught me anything that I can apply to writing it’s: continue to write with style (that’s the Upstairs) while still maintaining fun, humility, and lots of hard work (the Downstairs).

I shall end with some Pontius Pilate: I have written what I have written. Oh, and some early Depeche Mode.

The Golden Grip

I have written a YA Fantasy novel THE GOLDEN GRIP. It’s online at Authonomy is the creation of UK book publishers HarperCollins. It’s a site for aspiring writers to develop their books and connect with the literary community. The top 5 rated books every month win a critique from the Harper Collins editing staff. This from its site: “Authonomy is on a mission to flush out the brightest, freshest new writing talent around.”

Blake's Ancient of Days


Please visit this site and read my novel THE GOLDEN GRIP, book one of THE CHILD ENTHRONED trilogy. And review it if you please. Feather your nest with it by placing the book on your bookshelf. I appreciate your help in this process on the road to publishing THE GOLDEN GRIP.

Here’s a synopsis for THE GOLDEN GRIP, book one of THE CHILD ENTHRONED trilogy:

Ordinary London boy Dylan Sloane has no idea he is the Sun god’s heir, chosen to rule the sun realm Albion. On an outing to the Tate museum, he is warned by Professor Gideon Spurne to keep away from the Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece The Child Enthroned. But the moment Dylan locks eyes with the mysterious girl in the portrait he is snatched into Brim Umbra and into the centre of a usurper king’s deadly plot to overthrow the Sun god.

Trapped in the Electric Body Cages by the Brotherhood, a band of wolf alchemists, Dylan is rescued by Nessa Icon, the king’s exiled daughter. Fleeing Brim Umbra, the children steal the Golden Grip, a powerful amulet shaped like a child’s clenched fist, and capture a Helios, a fallen star and legendary solar vehicle to the sun realm.

Pursued by an alchemical Golem and a Dream Hunter, the children trust unexpected new friends: the Moon god and his feisty albatross, pirates of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Skellig Solitaries, awakened marble statues, an ex-highwayman, and a serendipitous winged woman.

Can Dylan and Nessa save the Golden Dawn before the Black Beast devours it and the Sun and Moon gods fall from their celestial thrones?

Fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Winterson’s Tanglewreck, Mervyn Peake, Frances Hardinge, and Alan Garner should enjoy THE GOLDEN GRIP!