Monday, May 03, 2010
However! That is not what this blog post is about. While I was excavating the garage I came across my old novel, the one I wrote when I was about 30. So I reread it last night and this morning. My novel! It sucks! I now apologize to every single person who has ever written a book I have complained about, because it turns out that I wrote a book that can stand on its own as one of the worse things the English language has ever had to guiltily account for.
Still, it was interesting as hell - I laughed, I cried, I thought, my god, if this had ever been published my friends would have taken out an assassination contract on me and quite rightly. It turns out that I'm not a novelist - I'm a blogger who was only slightly hampered, in 1992, by the as yet non existence of blogs. This thing is a historical document of my early twenties and early thirties when, apparently, we were all stoned alcoholics who had sex with each other all the time. Ah, college. The more things change, yes: we're still all stoned alcoholics, for the most part, only slightly better organized ones who no longer, as far as I know, now that we have moved out of the small hothouse environment of downtown Charleston, SC, fuck each other continuously and revel in the resultant drama. Ah, college, or, more realistically, thank god we've outgrown that part. Every character is a thinly veiled real person or possibly, in one or two cases, an odd mishmash of two or three people, with the possible exception of the main love interest, who is clearly made up. Yeah, there were no perfect men around in my life in the eighties, either.
Since the chances of anyone else ever reading this masterpiece are slim, I will hereby give you a synopsis. The book is set in two times simultaneously - yes, this is a problem - and is told sort of in flashbacks. Part of it (the better written part) is set in a small rowhouse in East Baltimore in the early 90s, where a single mother of two children (ha ha! Who do you think that is?) is existing through a snowy winter while many mysteries - and men - from her past slowly begin to reappear. The flashback part takes place in Charleston while our heroine (it's told in first person singular, of course, and this heroine is tall and has long red hair and is an artist and feels awkward and guilty a lot, likes to paint and cook and drink and listens, embarrassingly enough, to Modern English. She is fond of dogs and the Psychedelic Furs and worries about her weight. No, a novelist I apparently am not.) is finishing up an arts degree and living in a group house with a bunch of other entertaining young people. Hello, my old friends! My god, it's. . Linda! And Hy! And Pletch! And Kathy! And Glenn! And both of the two Michaels! What a shock! There they all are, drinking beer at Group Therapy, eating the free buffet at Plato's and listening to the Uncalled Four. Hi, Nick! Paul!
This is all quite entertaining and there's a lot of partner swapping and high drama and drinking of beer and doing of various drugs and then this group goes out on a picnic and finds an alien. Yeah, an alien. Look, even I knew I had to work a plot in here somewhere. They call the alien Quisp because, well, they do, and there are many cultural references and more sex and lots more drinking - I like the way they stash the alien in Scott Finsel's old apartment behind the Pink Palace and then go out drinking - and there are some abortive musings on the nature of godhood and communication and evolution and a few jabs at Ronald Reagan. Meanwhile, back, or, rather, future in Baltimore our heroine finds that sitting at home snowed in with two children is a drag. Yeah, I do remember that rather clearly as well. One of the main guys in the book has been arrested in Spain and there are hints of evil government plots and a shit ton of foreshadowing.
Back to Charleston and the eighties, where the entire group - there are way too many main characters in this thing, and their dialogue, while it all sounds the same, to be fair, is not badly done and pretty funny - decide to decamp for Asheville, since evil government agents are rapidly descending on them. In Asheville they learn to communicate with the alien by the use of, first, LSD and, second, a Sony Walkman, which was apparently rather groundbreaking technology to me at the time. All this goes swimmingly and they then develop mad psychic powerz and start floating shit around. Then, alas, the damn things stops, which is weird, because I distinctly remember writing about 100 more pages, including a deathless scene which my friend Ray, an early reader, has been mocking me for ever since - that's the deus ex machina part where, chased up and down a mountain, broke, freaked out and accompanied by an alien, this group of college students just happens to find a fully stocked van parked on the side of the road with keys in it. Handy!
Rereading this thing for the first time in maybe 10 years has been odd. I've been completely engrossed, which I didn't expect and the book itself is both worse and better than I thought it was. I haven't changed very much in the last 17 years, apparently: that is kind of alarming, truth be told. It's full of cultural references that made me crack up - everything from Ashley Gashley and the Creature Double Feature to Shonen Knife, REM, Iran-Contra and such distant cultural touchstones as Ma Bell, long distance bills and the difficulty in programming VCRS is in there. It's a history, is what it is, a history full of in-jokes, and it's kind of charming in its own peculiar way. Huh.