Where I Belong
October 6, 2009
Dear you and me,
I want to write mysteries like Raymond Chandler wrote mysteries. Chandler created an LA I look for even now in the streets of Hollywood. Or in Long Beach or La Jolla. It’s not there. It never was. But I see it anyway because Chandler made us all see it. I want to write mysteries like Agatha Christie wrote mysteries. Sneaky little puzzles right out there in the open, winking and blinking and laughing at you, yet the only way to solve them is to solve Agatha. I want to write mysteries as if I were the spawn of Ray and Agatha. Ki Christie Chandler.
I want to write horror as engrossing as Stephen King’s even though it’s not his horror that grips, it’s his “ideas.” Come to think…it’s his Voice. No one gets under the skin of teenage boys like King…no doubt because he was, and still is, a teenage boy. I want to write horror that trails its fingers along the spine as Shirley Jackson’s did. Shirley was not a happy woman. Like King who drank, she ate and chain smoked her life away writing her strange and perfect sentences. To have called King “Dad” and Shirley “Mom” would have been hellish…but think of the stories!
I want to write poems as precise as Emily Dickinson’s and as lyrical as Dylan Thomas’. The mating of Emily and Dylan boggles the senses a bit. The mating of Emily and anyone boggles the senses. It certainly would have seared hers. But to pen such stuff each day, to see the Eye of God in a Kingdom of Grass. Could it cut to the nerve any deeper?
I want to write literature that lasts as Vladimir Nabokov’s will last. I want to write like Flann O’Brien, wee coy disappointed man that he was. I want to leave something of myth in the world. An Oz of my own.
In short, I want to write in any genre as one of the greats. Instead it has always been my curse to suffer “for my art” as sensationally as Poe did and yet never to be Poe. The hell with it.
I do have this: that I write at all is all my own doing. I am not the spawn of greats or semi-greats or even half a great. My stepfather could barely read much less write. I never saw a book in my mother’s hands. There were no books in my houses. Were there magazines? I can’t recall. So many houses and apartments when you get dragged around by a Navy man and a woman who’s just biding her time until she thinks you’re old enough to get along without her. (I could always have gotten along without her, and though she was almost there, I did get along without her.) And yet I wrote my first book, a fantasy, when I was four. Come to think, I was also a publisher at four. I wrote and illustrated my little book; then, like Emily, made a little packet of it and hid it somewhere. I saw it once years later and then never again. Seeing it that one time is why I know I wrote it at all since I don’t recall much before the age of 7 or 8. I have a feeling there’s a good reason for that. I have a feeling that writing, at least for me, is a place to go just to be somewhere I belong.
For the moment I’m writing historical fiction. It hasn’t been a choice. It’s been necessary. After all these years of wanting to write as if I were someone else, the person I actually was (am?) found a subject none of my heroes had touched on. Hold on. That’s not true. My subject is Emily’s subject. She wrote like silver bullets shot from a small caliber gun. Her words made tiny precise holes in the mind and in the holes were bulleted worlds of intense meaning. Emily’s subject was “Eternity,” her name for divine reality. Emily’s subject was my subject. And to talk about it, I chose to use the West’s best known “story.” I would tell it as it told itself to me and in the telling talk about Eternity. Or Glory. Or Cosmic Consciousness. Or Enlightenment. Or Gnosis. (I’ve already written of gnosis here: http://www.thesecretmagdalene.com/gnostic.html) In “The Secret Magdalene” (which has its own website and here its own category), I used the Biblical tale of Jesus and Mary Magdalene to speak my own “truths.” And when that was done, I found it wasn’t done at all. There was so much more to say. There will always be more to say. Which meant I had to write another novel, again historical fiction, and I chose Hypatia of Alexandria to continue my “letters to the world.” “Flow Down Like Silver” also has its own website (http://flowdownlikesilver.com) and here its own category. I shall write one more novel of historical fiction which is called “The Woman Who Knew the All” about the Magdalene alone…and then?
I’ll know when the time comes.