Levin Lovin

Destined to become corpses anyway, eighty-six men, women, and children clung to the hull of the submarine.

Nah, going nowhere. I would love to write some fiction again. I haven’t had a fresh story in mind in ages. I’m reading Anna Karenina right now and the intro to the translation said that the Konstantin Levin character was clearly a stand-in for Tolstoy, and without knowing anything about Tolstory but knowing something about writing, yes, I can see that. He’s both the most affectionately mocked and the most suffering, he’s the most reliably complicated, learning about himself at every turn, and his every interaction with others seems to reinforce what we’d already expected about the other character. It’s such a first-person third-person it almost hurts. I’m in the middle of the somewhat non-sequitur wheat harvest scene, where Levin the noble slums it with the peasants and enjoys the shit out of cutting him some wheat and pushing his body to the max, like a machine. The only time he does the job well (and he can always recognize when the job is well done) is when he stops thinking, loses track of himself, disappears from his own body and becomes… metaphor. So, yeah, this is Ayn Randian levels of This Much I Know Is True, so steeped in authorial sway it almost reads like a missionary pamphlet. Almost, I mean, Tolstoy is still pretty good, and Rand too can spin a yarn now and then.

What I mean is, I am not quite so inspired by my self. My first novel was essentially four versions of teenage me, plus girl me, because if I didn’t know it to be true I wouldn’t write it. Which, of course, is an oversimplification, but I was started the novel before grad school and in grad school I quickly learned to write defensively so as to survive workshop and the thing I felt most vulnerable about was the passive-aggressive “I don’t know if I believe this part.” Which means “I don’t believe this part,” which to the young writer sounds like a request for fact-checking but really means you’re not deep enough into your character’s head. If the character believes it, the reader believes it. But, to me, I took it like a challenge of truthfulness. So everything was based on either me or something I’d seen, with small leaps of faith from pillar to pillar. And these small leaps were what I relied on to make the whole novel cohere, which was unwise, these flimsy little rope bridges.

Either that or I wrote pure, experimental, you-can’t-prove-it’s-not-true fiction. Which I got away with a little more.

Nowadays and especially lately, I not only am not inspired by my self, I’m not even remotely interested in me. Which means all of my characters start out as black gay Muslim lesbians, or whatever, which is also hard for me to write about for reasons that ought to be a lot more obvious to me. So as not to pigeonhole myself at the other pole, I’m trying just to focus on whatever can hold my attention and not worry about the subject’s proximity to my own world. And then dig into the character, best I can.

Except, nothing has been holding my attention very well. So.

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