(my grandfather and my father, sometime in the mid to late 1950’s)
For the last two years I’ve been working on a novel about the disintegration of our deep connection to old mythologies. Or maybe not. I mean, that may have been what I set out to write, and thought I was writing, but it might not be what I accomplished. I may have, in fact, accomplished something entirely different. We’ll see.
In this first book, the arc of the main character’s life is loosely structured on the pattern of my grandfather’s life, and I’m planning on making it the first of a trilogy. I’ve been told it’s an ambitious project, and I fear that perhaps it’s too ambitious for my meager talent. But, of course, no one ever accomplished anything without reaching beyond his perceived or actual limits. A lot of other writers have attempted what I’m doing – using the life of a real person in an allegorical way to explore some existential topic (i.e. what mythology will replace the old, dying agrarian mythologies that are now turning into rigid, destructive dogmas?).
The fact that I’m using the outline of the lives of my grandfather (book 1) and my father (book 2) presents some very special and tense problems. Basically, I’m taking certain, broad high points (low points, too perhaps) and constructing a purposefully fictional story out of them. My grandfather did, in fact, work for a boxing promoter in Los Angeles during the Great Depression, but none of the events I wrote about in the book I just finished actually happened (no mob, no relationship with a mob daughter, etc). But, particularly with the second book where the triggering event of the narrative, as it is written so far, is a combination of my father’s death and earlier divorce from my mother, there is a tendency to drop into a kind of memoir-ish reportage rather than following the emotional truth of the allegorical story I’m trying tell (the confusion of a myth-less society, and the search for personal meaning and a sense of purpose).
Did that make sense? If it didn’t, you can sort of see the problems I’ve been having – or at least the smoke from the friction those problems are causing. If it did make sense, cool, now you can place bets on whether I can pull it off.
Either way, I wasn’t getting anywhere with the second novel and, after the mild darkness I’d sunk into while writing the first one, the deeper darkness of the second one was getting to be too much to handle. So, I’ve jumped ship and started an entirely new project in an attempt to put some distance between myself and the second book for a while. When I’m done with my “buried car” story, I’ll come back to my trilogy – hoepfully with a clearer vision toward what needs to be done – or at least a bit more of the courage I need to face that darkness.