Friday, October 24, 2003

Plan B

According to legend, Tom Robbins, author of such wild tomes as Another Roadside Attraction and Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, writes his books one sentence at a time. Well, donít we all? Isnít writing all about putting one word after another until you hit pay dirt? Well, yes. But he apparently makes use of no notes, no guides, nor does he even develop characters before hand.

Tom Robbins makes it up as he goes along, treating each sentence like a singular jewel, fashioning it until itís perfect, to his specifications. Then he moves on to the next sentence. And he never goes back to revise. This could explain why it takes him, on average, five years to complete a novel. I for one have a hard time believing he doesnít revise, considering how seamless his books fit together. This achievement is only all the more striking if true, when you look at how bizarre some of his books can be. Theyíre like transcendental plutonium, shooting rays of kryptonite green sunshine strait into your pineal gland.

I for one think he must have at least a vague idea of what he wants to write about before hand. After all, thatís the motivation for writing, that you have something specific you want to say even if itís no more specific than just an innate desire to bark at the moon and scratch that existential itch.

Iíve been putting together notes for my next foray into the Art of the Novel. My Plan A concept was inspired by a passage in Hakim Beyís TAZ:

ÖFrom among the experiments of the inter-War period I'll concentrate instead on the madcap Republic of Fiume, which is much less well known, and was not meant to endure. Gabriele D'Annunzio, Decadent poet, artist, musician, aesthete, womanizer, pioneer daredevil aeronautist, black magician, genius and cad, emerged from World War I as a hero with a small army at his beck and command: the "Arditi." At a loss for adventure, he decided to capture the city of Fiume from Yugoslavia and give it to Italy. After a necromantic ceremony with his mistress in a cemetery in Venice he set out to conquer Fiume, and succeeded without any trouble to speak of. But Italy turned down his generous offer; the Prime Minister called him a fool.

In a huff, D'Annunzio decided to declare independence and see how long he could get away with it. He and one of his anarchist friends wrote the Constitution, which declared music to be the central principle of the State. The Navy (made up of deserters and Milanese anarchist maritime unionists) named themselves the Uscochi, after the long- vanished pirates who once lived on local offshore islands and preyed on Venetian and Ottoman shipping. The modern Uscochi succeeded in some wild coups: several rich Italian merchant vessels suddenly gave the Republic a future: money in the coffers! Artists, bohemians, adventurers, anarchists (D'Annunzio corresponded with Malatesta), fugitives and Stateless refugees, homosexuals, military dandies (the uniform was black with pirate skull-&-crossbones--later stolen by the SS), and crank reformers of every stripe (including Buddhists, Theosophists and Vedantists) began to show up at Fiume in droves. The party never stopped. Every morning D'Annunzio read poetry and manifestos from his balcony; every evening a concert, then fireworks. This made up the entire activity of the government. Eighteen months later, when the wine and money had run out and the Italian fleet finally showed up and lobbed a few shells at the Municipal Palace, no one had the energy to resist.

I was going to write a wild anarchist mash note to freedom and rebellion! How fucking Bohemian of me. Now, Bey does mention after the above passage that later, DíAnnunzio became a Fascist and fell in with Il Duce himself. He sort of apologizes for DíAnnunzio by saying that he saw the light and for betraying the Fascist cause, Mussolini had him killed. This I could almost overlook in my fictionalized account, which would only be about the 18-month escapade in Fiume. But, like a good little Librarian, I decided to cross-reference my source.

Turns out dear Hakim left out the part where DíAnnunzio kept control of the city of Fiume by poisoning his adversaries with castor oil or that the men and boys who didnít join the Arditi were shot. So it seems my would-be-hero was less of an Anarchist and more of a Fascist then I thought. So plan B.

Iíve always wanted to write a short novel using the structure of an Edward Gorey Book. Now, whatís great about Goreyís books is their freeform minimalism. Characters wonder in and out, sometimes miss the obvious, strange things happen or start to happen but the drama occurs off the page, in the margins. Itís mostly just about lifeís unrelenting uncertainty, miasma, peril, mystery, ennui, indifference, trepidation, spoons, tumescence, broccoli, inscrutability, gyrations, entrities, idleness.

Basically, I have no plot but a couple of eccentric characters with unlikely names and a list of unrelated scenarios that lead to a vague and inconclusive end. And Iíve chosen a title at random from a list of evocative sounding headers. It will be called The Unturned Stone and should be fun to write and hopefully, to read.

Any ideas or suggestions are welcome, the stranger the better. Just drop them in the comments box.


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