Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Take the Long Way Home

 

As I have mentioned before, I have two ideas for novels that are of truly epic proportions, which, if the fates are kind enough to allow me the time to complete them before I leave this vale, would no doubt constitute two of my greatest literary accomplishments. I do not intend to say much about them before I write them, or even while I am writing them, but I just decided last night that I may begin working on one of them now.

I will tell a little about it here, and then probably remain relatively quiet about it until it is completed. That may be years from now, as it will be an immense work, in the hundreds of thousands of words, and taking up several hundred pages.

One may well question why any writer, in this day and age, would want to spend the time and energy required to compose such a long work. Will anyone actually take the time to read it all the way through? (I am reminded of the great Dr. Johnson's "Do you read books through?")

There are multiple good reasons, though, why I wish to create a vast epic novel in the 21st century Internet age. One reason is simply because we live in the Internet age. I believe that our fragmented, distracted experience detracts from the deep experience of life and of art, and in all of my writing, poetry and prose, I wish to work against that tide, in order to do my part to create space for true contemplative leisure, and therefore the ability to experience true intellectual, emotional, and spiritual depths. Perhaps only a small number will avail themselves of the opportunity for the slower, richer, fuller, deeper experience of life that my works, or any other literary works, offer to provide, but their value does not lie in their popularity. They are offered as treasures for those who will take them.

Another reason, more particular to this novel, is that the very nature of the story requires it to be big. Part of what I want to convey in this work is a scale of almost inconceivable vastness and immensity. That would be much more powerfully conveyed in a work that requires the reader to journey through many hundreds of pages, with a far greater commitment of time and attention, and a much deeper investment of mental and emotional energies, than would be required by a shorter, easier-to-digest work.

So what is the story about? Well, as always, it would be difficult to summarize while doing justice to the story. But I can say a few things about it.

First, the title is simply House. It is the type of story that will undoubtedly be labeled as fantasy or science fiction, but I do not label it as such myself. I simply consider it a novel, one that is deeply symbolic (not in the sense of easily explainable allegory, but more in the strange, obscure way that dreams are symbolic), and deeply philosophical.

The philosophical ideas and themes cannot be reduced to a simple formula or thesis, but the central idea is that of home, as suggested by the title. It is the story of a man who mysteriously departs contemporary Earth and finds himself traveling into unimaginable reaches of the distant cosmos and the far future. As his experience thus radically expands, so does his perspective. I will not reveal much more about the trajectory of the story, except to say that, in terms of time and space and philosophical ideas explored, it is probably about as large in scale, scope, and ambition as it would be possible for a novel to be.

Just yesterday, I was thinking that I might need to focus on a new writing project for awhile, taking a break from Rainbow, or at least finding a new channel for other ideas while that work is in progress. At first I did not entertain the idea of starting on House, since it is itself an incredibly long story.

However, last night, while discussing with a friend my desire for a new project, my friend casually suggested "the one on home". I then realized that I had first developed the basic idea for the story ten years ago this month, and on further thought (and after checking my notes to make sure), that it was actually ten years ago today (April 2, 2004). The timing seemed uncanny and, therefore, perfect.

In addition to its length, the story will also prove challenging to readers, no doubt, because of its symbolist nature. But I want the story to appear, not only so vast as to induce a sense of vertigo, but also exceedingly strange. That is part of what it will communicate. It is largely about the protagonist's bewildering, sometimes painful expansion of consciousness and understanding, and it should be so for the reader as well.

Therefore, I expect that perhaps only a few intrepid and determined souls will undertake the journey and see it through to its conclusion. But I believe, if I am true to my vision and skilled enough to realize it in writing, that they will never forget it, and that they will be changed by it. My desire is that readers will leave the story feeling shaken and haunted, in the best possible way, with thoughts and feelings that are impossible to put into words, yet that are deeply resonant and profound.

So much for my vision (outlined here only in the barest form). Now to see how well I can realize it. Yes, it is quite an ambitious project. But I am nothing if not an ambitious writer. If this is a science fiction story, then my intent is to raise that genre to a literary level it has never before known.

It will be a long and challenging journey, both for me and my protagonist. But, if we succeed, then at the end a treasure of immense worth shall be found. As the Tao Te Ching says, "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step."