Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What This Story Is Not About

As I progress through the writing of this novel, its meaning becomes more and more clear. However, I am certain that even when I have written the last word, the meaning of my story will remain somewhat mysterious, even for myself. It is not meant to be a political or religious tract, nor a scientific or philosophical treatise. It is poetry, in the broader sense of that term (which, by Aristotle's definition, can be taken to include all fiction). Because of that, its meaning will always be indeterminate and ambiguous, open to a range of interpretations.

I have no doubt that it will make you feel something. What that something is may vary from reader to reader, and, as with many works of literature or film or music, it may be something you can't fully describe or explain or put your finger on. But it may, if I am as skilled of a writer as I hope to be and am capable of conveying my vision effectively, still be powerful and deeply affecting (as the story is for me). Many of my favorite works of literature, film, and music leave me with profound feelings that I can't ever fully understand or analyze. I may not know what I am feeling, exactly, but I definitely know it is something real and important, something much bigger and deeper than ordinary everyday emotions and thoughts. That is the effect of great poetry and art, and it is the effect I hope to achieve.

I don't mean to sound melodramatic in saying this, and this is something that is true for many, many artists and their works, but an important aspect of this work in particular, perhaps more than any other work I have produced, is that it is born out of suffering. This concept is very important to the story itself, as it has much to do with suffering producing beauty.

I won't get into further details today, but, just to clear the idea out of everyone's mind, I wish to make one point clear. Many who know me know that my marriage ended recently. This story has nothing whatsoever to do with that. The only relationship between that event and this tale is a very indirect one. Simply put, the dissolution of my marriage opened up a space for another, quite unrelated phenomenon to surface within my soul, something that was simultaneously beautiful and painful. That mixture of beauty and pain gave a whole new inspiration and new life to a story idea that had been sitting around for many years. I consider it a gift, and I wouldn't trade the pain for the world, because, together with the beauty from which it is inseparable, it inspires me and enables me to use my talents more fully and powerfully than I ever have. I feel that it is a flame, causing both suffering and illumination, that is driving me to reach my full potential as a writer.

The nature of this beauty/pain/inspiration is something deeply personal and in any case would be hard to explain or describe in a short space with full justice and without the potential of great misunderstanding. The novel, among many other things that it is, is my way of explaining it. Although the details of characters and events are purely fictitious, the underlying heart of the story, its themes and meanings, its emotions and ideas, are all very real. I am telling you about something that actually happened and continues to happen to me, but not with the literal facts of my autobiography. I am telling it through another person's story--a fictional person who is not me, and does not in any simple or direct way "represent" me, but who nevertheless experiences things very similar (though by no means identical) to what his author has experienced.

By telling it in this fictional form, I hope to tell my own story to its fullest effect, free from the nitty gritty details of true history. I am turning it into poetry, which as Aristotle said is more philosophical than history because it shows us universals rather than particulars.

My recent inspiration and the art it is producing have given birth to a strange new vision, a vision which forms the philosophical core of this tale. To me, it is strange in a good and beautiful way. I know and expect that some readers will simply find it strange, or perhaps not understand it at all and so not know what to think. The ending, though I find it to be powerful and profound, is also ambiguous and open. I wish to leave the reader, not with tidy conclusions (in terms of either plot or philosophy), but with a sense of wonder and possibility, an aching sense of the deep importance of human life and love, and a desire to know more. Not that there will be a sequel... the unfulfillment that drives us perpetually toward truth and beauty is part of the point.

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