Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Peeling Away The Tablecloth

"What's your book about?" is a perfectly warranted, reasonable question from anyone who's just heard that you devoted the last ten years to writing one, and I hate it worse than, "What do you do for a living?" or, "A kid just puked on the playground, can you go take care of it?"

My rambling impromptu response is usually along the lines of: "Well, it's a fantasy... I don't know if you like Lord of the Rings... it's kind of in a similar setting, but I classify it more as a literary fantasy because it focuses mainly on the psychological growth of the characters, you know, how they overcome their own demons and obstacles..." meanwhile I can see each and every character giving me the finger behind my blinking eyes.

I don't go up to parents and ask, "What's your kid about?" and force them to reduce years of tender, loving nurture and rewarding (though sometimes agonizing) results to an illuminating one-liner.

Then comes the book's title, A Facet For The Gem, which elicits a similarly exaggerated look of interest and wonderment, because it would be impolite to just blurt out, "What the hell?" Again, I explain, "Well, it's like the title: 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' where it's alluded to in the middle, and then at the end kind of comes as a revelation to the protagonist." And, again, the transcendence I achieved so many times while writing it is sold shorter than a two-hour Miller High Life buzz.

Writers write, I'm sure, because at some point we realized it made us better than anything else did. In that realm we could weave an elegant tapestry out of overwhelming discord, whereas in most others, we might as well have chronic arthritis. We withdraw from wherever we feel underrepresented, and regenerate in the shadows.

And even the most mundane experience can be piled high with symbolism, like two days ago, when I was helping my uncle TC set his dining room table for the family. He said it was such a shame, because it's a very nice table, but hardly anyone ever gets to really see it because it's almost always covered to prevent any stain or scratch. Feeling overloaded by connections to Plato's Allegory of the Cave and many others into my own life experience, I just smiled.

But thinking about it more, I knew that was what my book is about: people letting what is most immediately observable blind them to far greater underlying possibilities; scraping free of their tedious, hollow confines and discovering richer substance on the other side. And knowing, too, if that ever becomes commonplace, there may always be something even better to discover.


  1. Yep, I feel exactly the same way anyone asks me what my books are about!! And people give me that same, vacantly polite stare when I try to sum my books up. Speech is so overrated!

  2. Finally, someone who understands! I have a problem with telling people that I'm writing a novel (s) and them saying something like, "And that's all you want to do with your life? Write books?" If only people understood the time and care it takes to pour your heart and soul out into grammatically correct sentences and hope that other people find it as moving as you do. [end rant]