Here is the panel I was on a few weeks ago at the LA Times Book Festival. Can you spot me? It was a great session, moderated by Thomas Curwen of the LA Times, with authors Lisa See and Karl Marlantes, both of whom were lovely to talk to and sell a buttload more books than I do. Can I be them when I grow up?
It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry that justifies the title of this blog. Never fear, there is plenty of sophomore novel angst happening here! Ever since I finished my Romanian collective unconscious document I have been genuinely scared to address the actual narrative of In the Red. Is it because it collapsed so spectacularly last time? Partly. But I think it’s mostly because once I get started it’s going to tell me a bunch of shit I don’t want to hear. The consciousness of this book is so heavy. It has an existential obsession with human morality in the face of the void. So I’ll just be going around my business when the book will spontaneously say something like: “We all collaborate with our miseries. The only true gesture of negation is to cease existing.” And then I respond, “What? Are you telling me to eat a gun? Can you shut up while I play Angry Birds here for a minute? Jesus.”
I swear, it’s like I have Albert Camus living inside my braincase.
Also it really, really wants to talk to me about Capitalism and while it’s fun to channel that problem into goofy rants about toothpaste, this book does not want to be a goofy rant about toothpaste. It intends to be Serious. It also wants to talk about exile, history, repression, abuse of power, and all sorts of fluffy shit like that. Please send help. I want to write a book about puppies and rainbows.
(Don’t worry, potential readers, there will still be hot sex. I mean, this is me we’re talking about here.)
Okay, let’s talk about Lego instead.
Before I went away for the book festival, I admired this Lego set at Target:
I totally wanted it, but could not quite justify plunking down forty five bucks to buy this for myself since I am, allegedly, an adult. I mean, that’s what my driver’s license says. (It lies.) Fortunately, I have the world’s awesomest husband ever, so this set was waiting for me on my desk when I got home from the festival. I love him so much. There was a feature to this set that he, like me, simply could not resist. Take a closer look at the cargo the truck is hauling:
Yes, it is hauling tiny Lego sets for Lego people, among them sets of itself. Could you die? Okay, probably if you are not a huge dork, this does not make butterflies flutter in your stomach. But, I am not not a huge dork, so this makes me unreasonably happy.
Anyway I just put the set together last night, after a particularly grinding bout of unproductive sophomore novel angst. It was such a fucking fabulous experience. Everything clicks into place so satisfyingly, and it all looks exactly how you expect it to, and it gives you a sense of achievement. Why can’t life be more like that? I need more Lego. And maybe some Xanax, but mostly just the Lego.
Sorry, but I was always a Lincoln Log kind of gal. Something about building my own little house in the big woods…probably too much Little House on the Prairie in my formative years. Can we make a play date and can we bring some Tinker Toys too?
That sounds awesome! And we should definitely have a play date avec ou sans toys given that we live so close.
Oh, Legos…my brother has buckets and buckets of them in the basement.
I have a tidbit of a suggestion to offer about your sophomore novel angst, if I may. Note that I’m not published or in any way shape or form reputable, so take this with a grain of salt. Perhaps the angst is coming from the fact that the novel is trying too hard to be Serious (capital S and all). To use an example: a comedian who tries too hard to be funny isn’t. But comedians get away with successfully discussing really serious stuff because they use comedy to do it. Now, you don’t want your book to be comic, but there’s no harm in lightening up the tone once in a while. If anything, some comedy makes the serious even more serious by contrast. It’s like Hamlet (to use another example). We think of Hamlet as this great, serious tragedy that explores the meaning of life and the futility of human existence–and it does. But parts of Hamlet are laugh-out-loud funny. Like when Hamlet and Horatio are joking with the gravedigger. Then Ophelia’s funeral procession enters, and the contrast between funny and tragic is all the more striking. That, and people can’t just sit through 4 hours of doom and gloom.
I don’t know anything about your novel or your novel issues–sorry if I completely missed the mark–but that’s my 2 cents. If your book wants to have lighter moments, let it. 🙂 And best of luck!
Thanks for your sweet advice! I don’t think the book is going to be pure doom & gloom all the way through; there is already some stuff in there that is meant to be funny. I think a lot of the existential weight of this thing is its sheer volume. Novels are huge, not only page-count-wise but because you have to hold all these gigantic structures and complex substructures in your head the whole time, it takes so much energy. I am sort of prematurely exhausted and freaked out, and wondering how the hell I managed to pull this off last time!