My failure as a writer runs deep, with successes few and far between. I won a short story contest in Grade Four, received an honorable mention in a Hires Root Beer contest, wrote film reviews in college, sports for community newspaper, ad copy for Toto toilets, was accepted to a Kenyon College writing program and most recently serialized a speculative novel for which the publisher lost interest.
The failures are much more profound – nothing published, nothing at all, after 40 years – a few friends who bother to read anything. Not that I write this for sympathy but rather to underline the reality that despite all of this, I still feel the writer, still, as Patricia Highsmith says, only know myself when writing things down.
Coming to terms with who I am, remembering the pain and mistakes, not negating, just coming to understand the little wounds and think on the words that give those cuts dimension, not just typing to see the night to the end, but that essential thing coming out like riding my bike into the half dead forest, stripping down, throwing everything away and being naked. It’s the only thing. Or insufferable. One of the two.
Post-humous publication appears the best of chances – to be remembered by a species devolving into apps – and together we go into the ether..
I have written in a variety of formats – non-fiction, short story, novel, screenplay, poetry – and learned gradually that my form is the narrative trilogy.
An early novel, Faster, written in 1994, is an autobiographical piece centered on Buzz biking from London to Morocco. And while there was an arc, it was incomplete.The character was left hanging, adrift. And there had to be something next.
And so I wrote Through – Buzz now traveling across Canada with his young family. I knew almost immediately that the work was a bridge to something else.And Out was clear from the outset, Buzz systematically losing everything he could – money, family, health – until there was nothing left, just Buzz, and that was the end. All of it together was Buzz, which became a template over the years, leading to my present work, the science fiction trilogy Anori.
I wrote Buzz in three installments, one per year, 1996-99. Leaving documents the main character’s younger years, cycling across Europe to burn off a broken heart. A yellow road turned inland from Valencia, went up into the hills and onto the plateau of La Mancha. The climb out of Chiva was hard, four vast switchbacks to the ridge, a burnt-out tractor-trailer wreck beneath a sign welcoming visitors to the heart of Spain. Sad dusty trees teetered beside rocks and weathered white-washed houses. Maybe here he wouldn’t see so many dead dogs.
Through is a piece in stasis, offering only the illusion of getting anywhere. The monster blackness in the corner of the room, ripping the roof off, vertigo and on forever, beautiful and tiny like a bar of soap, just under foot, holding it, dinosaurs across the island and his mother’s best friend lying with him naked bent over backwards, the curtains and the phone ringing, on a boat, a really nice boat with a super big flag and clean bathrooms or in tatters and leaking a bit.
And Out is the final dissolution, what it is to have thrown everything away for no reason at all. I was trying to understand, meaning to do it right, holding her eyes perfect, leave nothing, not myself, not jumping, not dead, not there, and then just stupid, loving her, stuck in myself, stuck stupid and sad.