Saturday, April 22, 2006


"Let me get this straight," you say. "The idea, then, is to write a novel that is completely untransferable to any other medium? Can not be translated to film? Can not be interpreted as a play? Can not, even, be effectively recorded as an audio book?"

The distance between these two cities has been shortened to such a degree that one city has grown right into the other. The line which once separated them, the barren fields of retired farms, has disintegrated entirely in recent years creating a new sort of barren in place of the old; that of an endless sea of cantankerous factories perpetually exhaling thick, black smoke into the sky, coupled with their callous cohorts, the automobile dealerships.

Adrift, now, in this unwelcoming grey sea, this space, this non-space, between cities, adrift, now, in our rented Toyota Prius, we talk if only to distract each other from the ugliness of outside, the slow but steady death of nature beyond our windshield.

'Can not' runs circles round my brain as I try to wrench myself back into our world of light conversation, new car smell, and Joel Plaskett on the factory stereo.

"Well, perhaps 'can not' is a little strong," I reply. "Certainly one would be perfectly able of forcing these transitions, but the idea is that the finished product will always be lacking, will always fail to live up to the original."

"Interesting," you say, absently flipping through the collection of CDs in the console.

"I'd like this novel to be as locked in its medium, as impossible to cover, as a Nirvana song," I continue. "Sure, it can be done - done by anyone, in fact - but it can never be done well."

"I really think you're on to something, and I'm eager to see how such a novel should turn out. Mind if I switch discs?" you ask, holding up a classic - Palace Brothers' There Is No-One What Will Take Care Of You.

"By all means," I say.

You exchange discs and within moments the controlled discord of Idle Hands Are The Devil's Playthings fills the car.

"By the way, how goes the writing these days?"

"These days, the novel practically writes itself," I say. "I've no control anymore. What started out as a vague idea, a seed, easily sprouted to a couple thousand words and onward to a healthy plant of twenty thousand strong. There was a bit of a struggle, then, for control over this unruly foliage - the taming of a concept I suppose - but once I was past that hump, it was all downhill from there-"

"-or uphill depending on how one looks at it."

"Indeed," I agree.

"So where are you at now? Progress-wise, I mean."

"Hit sixty thousand words last week, so I'm three quarters to my projected end total."

"Excellent job, mate."

We enter the city proper now, slowing slightly with the traffic, marvelling at the choppy Great Lake on one side and the concrete jungle on the other. It is here where nature and civilisation have made a reluctant truce, here where one pushes slightly on the other, deadlocked forever.

"At that rate," you continue, "you should be finishing up your first draft in, what, a few months?"


"Do I detect a little trepidation there?"

"A little, I think. See, the thing is, it's going so well that I don't really want it to end," I say. "I'm starting to feel like I could go on writing this novel forever. Like maybe, just maybe, this is the novel I always have been writing and always will be. Like perhaps there is no beginning and there is no end."

The city swallow us whole, a sheer wall of concrete and glass rushing up alongside us now as the lake slips out of sight behind us.

"And can a novel exist without those two things?" you ask. "Without a beginning or an end?"

"Doing without a beginning is easy," I reply. "Authors do it all the time. Doing without an end is another matter altogether."

"Too true," you nod. "Ending a novel without ending the story is one definite way to infuriate your readers."

"Exactly," I say, "and one doesn't ever want to do that - right?"

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