Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Now It Can Be Told

Little Wonder is an expanded extract from a book I was working on a couple of years ago called Seven Souls. This was my rock ‘n’ roll novel, a big, sprawling, shaggy beast of a thing, and it drew from a lot of influences. The main narrative through-line had its source in my time kicking around the fringes of the Boston music scene — especially the joy and eventual disappointment I found during my brief tenure playing in the folk-rock band We Saw The Wolf — and in an abortive flash-fiction project organized by erstwhile Internet pal Ben Haggar, the whole thing cut with generous dashes of Egyptian mythology by way of William Burroughs, of Gene Wolfe’s bizarre and wondrous short story “Melting,” and of Alvin Schwartz’s deeply weird “metaphysical memoir” An Unlikely Prophet, with a sprinkling of Virginia Woolf.

It was a little bit ungainly, is what I’m saying. I’d call it “kaleidoscopic,” were I feeling charitable (“digressive” if not), with a big ensemble cast all pulling the narrative in different directions, all jockeying to tell their stories. And in a spectacularly ill-advised bit of framing, I created a device whereby they could do just that — a long journey overland through three states, where the characters would pass the time and shorten the road by telling stories. Their own stories. Each story in a different genre, told in a different voice, a different style.

I had envisioned a lean, swaggering thing along the lines of Spider Kiss — then found I had thrust into its middle a contrivance that fell somewhere between The Canterbury Tales and Ulysses. But the idea would not be denied. I finished Rikki’s story (which bore the working title “Harvest Home”), sketched out several of the others, skipped and bobbed and weaved as best I could — then put the whole book aside, in despair of ever sewing the whole thing together, and moved on to something else.

But even as Seven Souls lay fallow and other projects came and went, I always remembered D, God bless her, looking over those chapters and saying, “These are pretty good. You ought to do something with this part.”

She’s a wise woman. Somebody ought to dedicate a book to her, or something.

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