Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Yesterday, I decided to throw out my novel and start all over again. Yes, I am clinically insane. I believe I started writing that version of it in early 2008, and I've been working on it ever since. At one point, I had an agent for it, then I stopped working with that agent, and then I kept working on it. Over the last six months, I've been revising it, but I could not shake the growing feeling that it simply wasn't working. I wrote it at a certain time in my life, when my head was in a certain place, and I changed, and I couldn't make my head fit into that box anymore, and it got to the point where I simply couldn't stand it. I did this once before, with another version of the novel, in early 2005, so this is not entirely new. It was the right thing then, and it's the right thing now. I suppose, in theory, it's daunting and/or difficult, but nothing is worse than spending day after day working on a novel that simply doesn't work. So, I gave up.

Recently, I looked over some of the short stories that I wrote over the years. Someone asked me about this, so I picked it up and looked at it, and I read some of the stories in it. I looked at some other stories, too, including this one, which I didn't have a digital copy of, so I had to transcribe it, which helped, because it got me back into the language, and the cadences, and the way I used to write.

A series of things happened to me during 2005, which was my life's annus horribilis, and by the time that year was over, my head was different, the way it worked, and that eventually changed who I would become, although that person didn't really re/surface for a few years. For a long period of time after the hurricane (I was living in New Orleans at the time), I couldn't write. It's hard to explain, but there was a long time during which I sort of lost who I was. Maybe I hoped that person would come back, but that experience, and ones that preceded it and followed it, really changed the topography of my brain, and there was no going back. It was either move forward, or become Lot's wife.

The whole idea of this novel was that it was supposed to be the novel version of a short story I once wrote, the title story of my short story collection, "You're a Bad Man, Aren't You?" That story is told from the point of view of a pornographer. A "bad man," if you will. And the story was very easy for me to write. He was based on someone I met in the Valley. But every time I would go to write this novel in the seven or eight years since I wrote that story, I would shy away from that character. I guess it entails inhabiting the mind of a monster -- but he isn't really a monster, is he?

In any case, poring over those stories, and remembering what I used to write like before everything changed, and not being able to stand another day working on the last version of the novel led me to start writing the novel all over again, this time from the point of view of that pornographer, a man who may be a bad man, but one I love regardless. I started writing it last night, and it was easy, and it was fast, and it made me laugh. For the first time in what seems like forever, I wrote something that sounded like me, like someone I used to be, and someone I've become.

So, we'll see. Novels are slippery. The title is still HAPPY. (Oh, the irony!) The epigraph is here. I'm 1,000 words in.