"the next big thing," in which questions about my novel are cagily deflected & certain well-known actors are (briefly) objectified

It’s like a literary-meme chain letter and it’s called “The Next Big Thing.” I’ve been tagged by Eric Raymond, whose book CONFESSIONS FROM A DARK WOOD, is just out from Sator Press. He talks about it here

Growing up, I would never pass on an opportunity to participate in such things. I would painstakingly copy the letter with its promises of good fortune and the catalog of ills that might befall the indifferent. 

Blind faith in some unknowable future thing? Swift consequences for failure to act? This good Catholic girl says: BRING IT ON. 

In this particular instance, I have not been informed of any punishment for noncompliance and although I have long since moved on from my Catholic school days, I am a cautious, anxious woman and why take undue risk?

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Well, it is the current book, the only book and I don’t have a title yet, really, but I have a few words and images I’ve been carrying around. This morning, the phrase I have been turning over in my head is: Hungry, Netted Birds. 

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

There have been many false starts. 

The book comes from wanting. From the chasm between what might be and what is. 

From learning to mourn what will never be. And learning to love what is. 

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Literary fiction? Prose poetry? Lyrical fiction? Collage? Ugh.

Can I pass on this?


4. What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?

Oh. Oh. Oh. I’ve got this. 

Much of the action, at least so far, revolves around the rather terrible and self-destructive liaisons of the protagonist, a woman who has spent some time struggling, searching. 

Which is to say that there would be a rather extensive ensemble cast of rakish, brooding, unsuitable men. It would probably be necessary to bring many, many actors in for screen tests.

I can’t say I have given a great deal of thought to the actors themselves (or to their wardrobes for that matter), but here's a short call-list, in no particular order:

Joaquin Phoenix (plaid flannel shirt, torn in places, top three buttons left open) 

Christian Bale (gaunt please, black turtleneck)

Steven Yeun (shirtless, dirt-smeared)

Ryan Gosling (but only with gold scorpion from the jacket he wears in Drive tattooed on chest)

Ralph Fiennes (bandaged)

Djimon Hounsou (contractually obligated to appear only in Calvin Klein underwear?)

Heath Ledger (yes, I understand, but since there is zero likelihood of my ever having to cast this, dream with me. Would need him in that Joker make-up)

Daniel Day-Lewis (cape, cane, one glass eye)

What is Ben Kingsley up to these days? 

Also, it would be important – for reasons of artistic integrity – for the author to spend a lot of time on set during the filming. For artistic reasons. 

Oh, and there’s this dude who sometimes waits for the bus across the street from my house. He has crazy eyes. I think he’s probably an undiscovered talent just waiting for his big break. Don’t tell me his name. We will just call him bus stop dude. 

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Yikes. Where were we? What was I saying?

6. Is your book represented by an agency?

Noooo. It is barely even a book yet. 

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It is still in process. I wrote the first two-thirds of it (terrible, terrible) in four weeks. It will take me at least another four, I am certain, to finish this (terrible) draft. 

8. What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

I don’t know that I would compare it with others, but I can tell you my influences: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon; Marguerite Duras (The Lover, Blue Eyes, Black Hair); Carole Maso (Ghost Dance, The Art Lover, Ava, The American Woman in the Chinese Hat); Elizabeth Smart (By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept); and more recently: Maggie Nelson (Bluets); Renata Adler (Speedboat).

I just started re-reading The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Rilke) and that will have influence too, I expect. 

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The recognition, upon turning forty, that time is passing more swiftly than I could possibly have understood at any earlier point in my life. The realization that if there are things I still want to do in my brief time on this earth, I will need to undertake them now with focus and with seriousness of purpose.

Turning forty was like cresting a roller coaster’s highest peak. For the first time, you can see clearly what the drop looks like and you know you where you are headed, and you are struck by the speed with which you will inevitably arrive there. 

It is breathtaking. This vista. The sky is blue and the sun is bight and you hover there for just a moment. You are high, light-headed. Your heart races. 

You are fearful but it is a delicious, life-affirming fear. A sharp intake of breath and then the thrill. The exhilaration of leaning into it. Letting go. 

10. What else about this book might pique the reader’s interest?

Did I mention sex? There are many instances – real, imagined, and implied – of sad, disappointing, alienating sex. 

If you are into that sort of thing. 

Next up: Here is where I get to tag Kevin Fanning, whose book MAGICAL NEON SEXUALITY sits lustily on my desk. You can find Kevin on twitter and he’s my tumblr buddy too.