Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Blog readers: I am back. After weeks of a lengthy hiatus from the blog to attend to personal matters, namely moving my whole family of four from one state to another and all of the various “Muttrolls” associated with that, I now return to The Secret Thread where I will hopefully resume making quasi-regular posts on matters related to literature, spirituality, film, etc.

Meanwhile, props are in order for the efforts of my man and co-blogger Duke Altum, who has mightily carried the torch while I was off doing the above. Since I make up for roughly 30% of the entire Secret Thread readership, maybe the whole of his contributions to the blog in recent weeks has not been fully appreciated. But if anyone has taken the time to read his last two posts, his insightful essay on children, innocence and the film The Spirit of the Beehive and his new Unshelved feature on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, you will know that he has been dishing out the content for any starved TST readers to lap up hungrily. Hopefully some were nourished by these noble servings. Since I have recently caught up on them I can tell you they are worth checking out.

Now then. Mutt rolls.

A lot has gone down for me lately in the new experiences related above. I’m now living in a house I own for the first time in a new state, and there are a lot of new demands on my time and resources. I have two young children who started branching out into new experiences almost immediately, and that sure isn’t going to slow down. I have not been able to do a lot of the literary work that I like to do very consistently in the last few months (this blog included), so it would seem that some of the projects I like to mention here might have taken a hit.

Reading-wise, I have not slowed much. Duke has kept the books on the right well updated. No time or real need to go through everything, but I will say this: I have been starting to read through Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series, and so far I have read two of seven volumes. When I finish that series I was planning to do a blog-only essay encompassing my overall thoughts on whether that series has any merit. I have long been curious as to whether this drawn-out series of fantasy books is worth the time it takes to read them or if they belong among the finest of that very popular writer’s expansive canon. He seems to hold these books dear. I am curious about their effect as one long story, and I plan to capture some of my conclusions here in the future, hopefully before the end of the year.

Recently I have been reading more cryptic fiction – I’m on my third fairly difficult book in a row, beginning with Omensetter’s Luck by William H. Gass, The Camberwell Beauty by V. S. Pritchett and now with Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch ­– which may be considered something close, if there is such a thing, to a South American Ulysses. All three of these books, while being very different in form, structure, tone, and just about everything else, have been challenging reads, but they are all immensely impressive and they are all written by acknowledged masters. Gass is an esteemed novelist and philosopher; Pritchett was one of the masters of the short story in English and one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and Julio Cortazar was a visionary and experimental genius who has been a tremendous influence on a bevy of writers from around the world.

Lastly, on my own writing, things have taken an interesting turn. I more or less stopped writing my novel a few weeks before we moved because of the difficulty of working on something like that while trying to relocate. But I found that I was still feeling a desire to be working on something. So I plugged that time with two smaller pieces that I did not expect to write. The first was a tribute to one of my literary heroes, the novelist Ron Hansen. Simply titled, “Ron Hansen: An Appreciation”, I thought the piece turned out well and I tried to sell it to three magazines. But each rejected it. I’m running out of places to send it, but I am glad I tried. Incidentally, Farrar, Straus & Giroux will publish Hansen’s novel Exiles on the life of Gerard Manley Hopkins in 2008 and I am looking forward to that with great enthusiasm.

Then, still wanting to write but living out of boxes by that point, I sat down and wrote a new short story which is now in the revision process. This was a surprise to me. The story is called “In The Throes” and it is a fictional response to the sexual abuse scandals of 2002 in the Catholic Church. It is a kind of bleak story, but it comes out of some of the comments I have heard others make after it all went down, my own ruminations on the fallout and what it all means, and a semi-subconscious but potent concern I have for my daughters’ futures. The story is about a seventeen-year-old girl whose life is upended when her parents decide to abandon the Catholic faith they raised her in, thereby casting her adrift on the spiritual seas. As a result, she makes a decision that could have long-term consequences. It has been an interesting story to write and edit and I am not totally sure about the story’s success.

The only thing about all this is that with the mental investment involved in writing those two pieces, it leaves me in a curious and unclear spot with regard to the novel I was writing since March. I am pretty sure I want to stick at it but it feels distant to me at the moment and I have had some doubts about how well it was ‘working’. I figure the only way to find out what is what here is to attempt to dive back into it as soon as I can after I finish “In The Throes” and send it out to a couple magazines. That is what I will do, which is well and good, but right now I have no idea what the prognosis is for it. We’ll see. And as it becomes clearer I will report on it in my ‘Journal’ on these pages.

Ergo, like I said: Mutt rolls.

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