This Year I Rewrite My Novel–Part V, Half-Full (Sometimes)

“If you can get the reader to identify with the everydayness of the lives of these characters and then bring them–both reader and character–to these rapturous moments, you will have fulfilled the promise of fiction. The reader is always looking for two things in the novel: themselves and transcendence.” (Walter Mosley, This Year You Write Your Novel)

I’ve talked a little about how I was trying to get my ying all-yanged up, or my yang all-yinged up, whatever. Beingness and presence-ness-ness-ness?

And now, the word transcendence sounds so good, so decadently religious.

Transcendence is limitless, that bottomless basket of fries.

I grew up in an artist family but always had a sense from the dominant culture that artists, “creative types” had some kind of gene for selfishness and all those other nasty words that begin with self-.

You know, even if you were a quiet intellectual kind of language poet, you were still a Menace II Society. You didn’t want to have 2.5 babies like everyone else and if you did, they would suffer from your art or from the fact that you committed suicide.

Actually, we kind of love these stories don’t we? I remember during a particularly morose period of my life, I hated Gwyneth Paltrow because she got to play Sylvia Plath AND she married that Coldplay dude. I took those who died very seriously and those who were alive as if we were living some kind of half-life because none of us ever really knows the end.

Maybe my situation was a little extreme but I don’t think those thoughts were too unusual. The tortured artist. We know who she is. The art destroys her. The art claims her life.

“She could’ve been a CPA but then she ran off (to Seattle) and got her MFA!”

But what if life instead claimed art?

Would we still know who she is? Would we not recognize her because perhaps she is not a tortured artist, perhaps she is not entirely self-involved, perhaps she goes about volunteering at the soup kitchen (sometimes), and leads a full life, a full life with Salsa dancing on Mondays/Tuesdays, a full life that at times, perhaps a couple hours each morning, claims her own art?

Would we recognize her?

Or would she be too self-, too self-deprecating?