Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Readers don’t always realize it, but even staggeringly brilliant writers like myself occasionally have bad ideas. I have a waist-high stack of papers in the corner that is evidence of said sad truth. I call this pile – “Dashed Dreams.” It is made up of nearly marvelous novels that fizzled out at around 96 pages. That seems to be the point at which I glumly realize it’s time to bail out. Why I hang onto these relics is a mystery. I’ve never returned to them with any success. You obviously can’t resurrect things so broken and dead. But I guess these false starts just represent so much hope and longing, so much time spent naively trying to make something beautiful out of incompatible parts. It’s hard to let go. It’s like a heap of old girlfriends that didn’t work out, only more stackable and less macabre.
Many of these aborted efforts were inspired by other great writers in the past. For example –
There was my Homeric retelling of The Odyssey, in which I rather cleverly reduced mankind’s plight in the cosmos to a heroic anthropomorphized flea struggling to find happiness on the body of a sad but pretty massage therapist named Penelope. It seemed like a dazzling idea at first – daring, avant garde, sensual – but then it became apparent that there were just too many balls to keep in the air – adventure, pathos, suppressed eroticism, essential oils, muscle soreness, existential philosophy, entomology, silliness. Not to mention it’s no fun spending that much time with a blood-sucking parasite. Even a handsome fictional one. (I modeled Odysseus after myself.) Oddly, the whole novel turned out to be way too autobiographical. By page 96, I found the character of Penelope was rubbing me the wrong way. I called it quits in the Scylla and Charybdis scene – the one where Odysseus finds himself tortured by beautiful mosquito sirens while navigating the perils of Penelope’s sweat-dampened sternum.
And then there was my revamping of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. I called this little gem Deadbeats of Episcopalia. My recollection of its origin is now veiled in a delirious fog. I remember a girl taking me on a date to her church. I remember the girl was pretty. I remember wanting to kiss her left knee. And I remember the after-services potluck in which I ingested a helping of tainted bean and mushroom casserole in the church’s basement while surrounded by liberal church members discussing politics and spirituality. The hallucinogenic properties of the casserole worked their magic, and I found myself feverishly writing my novel longhand on a stack of paper napkins. When I proudly showed my first 96 napkins to my date, I expected for sure she’d now let me kiss that knee. But alas! She was impressed, just not favorably. It seemed I had inadvertently modeled one of my more brazenly ribald characters after the church’s lady minister, a woman who turned out to be the girl’s mother. Oops!
Sometimes I would try to join two great classics into one. I tried Tarzan of Green Gables, Moby Bovary, and the nearly fabulous, but doomed from the start, Finnegan’s Web. None of these really worked out.
Admittedly, most of these flops occurred while I was still a young writer searching for my voice. Now that I’m older, I only have good ideas. In fact, I’m pretty stoked about my latest project, a novel I call Ar-Say’s Eft-lay E-knay. Yep, you got it. That’s Sara’s Left Knee in Pig Latin. The entire novel will be written in that rhythmic, fun-loving argot. I’m hoping to revolutionize literature in the same way Dante did by writing his little epic in Italian. Brilliant, right? It has Nobel Prize written all over it. I’m pretty excited to see it finished. I’m already up to page 95.