As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged an mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.
Why were so many Americans treated by their government as thought their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.
And so on.
Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All fact would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.
If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.
It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done.
- Kurt Vonnegut
Breakfast of Champions
I put a few hours of work into the new novel tonight, cleaning up some of what was bugging me about the second chapter. There's still something kind of itchy about it, but I think I like it better now, because I seem to be managing to spread out the details of the school shooting a bit more effectively. Which isn't entirely because I want to spread it out, but because that's the style I'm trying to use for this book -- lots of short, almost jarring, pieces. Now we're here. Now we're somewhere else. Now we're somewhere else. Jumping from the events of the present, to recollection, to the realm of pure fantasy, every page or so.
I'm having fun with it. Well, as much fun as can be had dwelling in the head of someone who hasn't slept in four days.
Finished Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions earlier tonight -- one of the books I picked up in Kamloops during my first week's vacation this year. I enjoyed it tremendously, and was profoundly struck by the chunk of the book I quoted at the top. I actually read that chunk last night, and have been burning with a desire to post it ever since I read it.
It's an interesting idea he poses -- and an idea he used in the actual writing of Champions, which is, I think, one of the greatest satires of American (and, thus, North American) culture I've ever read. Published in 1973, and still just as relevant. I haven't read a lot of Vonnegut, but from what I have, that seems to be the case.
Reading Vonnegut -- or any good satirist, for that matter -- leaves me wanting to dig out last year's aborted NaNo novel and take another stab at it. I wish I knew why it was that the book unravelled on me. If it was because I was trying to satirize something too big for my talent, or if it was simply because I was rushing through it to meet my daily word count. I still think the idea -- and the satire within that idea -- has merit, and I'd love to give it another shot. Maybe when I'm done with this new one.
On the topic of the NaNo, I'm a little concerned about this year. It's still a few months away, but I'm burning out the only current novel idea I have right now, and at the rate I'm writing, I'll be lucky to be done with this one by the time November rolls around. I'd hate to miss a NaNo after three years, but I'd hate more to try to put this book on the sidelines in order to pursue something else for just a month.
Started writing this week's column in my head tonight before jumping on the novel. I should have typed the words up at the time, because when I try to remember them on Wednesday, they won't be quite as good as they were tonight.
That's the way it always goes.