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!

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Bigfoot Strikes Again

This mythical beast has got more names than God: Bigfoot, Yeti, Almasty, Orang Pendek, Sasquatch, and many others.

And now I read that scientists from Switzerland and the UK have set up the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project to prove for once and for all whether or not these mythical creatures exist.

Ah, science, you big show-off, you! But haven’t you ever heard this maxim: No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. Guess not, seeing as evidence to you is just another way of saying proven until proven by science.

Good God, Horatio, don’t you know there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt up in your science?

No matter, science has brought us the 4 known forces in the universe: gravity, electromagnetic, and 2 forms of nuclear force. The rest is all hyperbole, hypotheses, and human skepticism.

Tis better to have science and answers than to never have science and answers at all.

And what’s the alternative? Some amnesiac God scuffing around the universe in borrowed slippers who created the world as we know it, how, by coitus interruptus (the immaculate conceiver, yours for the price of religion) or else hands-on onanist? Then on top of that (or underneath, depending on your preference), this raunchy, pernicious, and retributive old God decides he needs some life in the universe to worship him. So out from his hat comes Adam — where else did he come from since there was no hanky-panky for God? But where did Adam come from? Even as a writer, as much as you would like your characters to come to life, they don’t —  so much for the idea of being omnipotent as an author. The only way characters from books come to life is in a reader’s head or else a director comes along and pays some actor tons of money. So maybe God paid Adam and that’s why there is capitalism in the world and the idea of sell, sell, sell until it’s Armagideon time again. Imagine what might have come to pass, though, if God had simply rented Adam or even disguised himself as the first man.

The Irish writer Caitlin R. Kiernan has written: “One good mystery is worth a thousand solutions.” So why make the unknown known? Look at Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

I like that there are still unexplained phenomena laughing in the cellars of this world. I don’t want to know that there definitely exists a Bigfoot as much as I equally don’t want to know there isn’t one. Where’s the mystery in that?