The first line of my third (and this time published) novel(la): King Midas in Reverse.

23 Oct

My third novella—it probably isn’t even long enough to qualify as such—was actually published. Sort of.

Back in Montgomery, I was in a writers’ group with Foster Dickson, a writer/editor and educator of no small reputation, and out of the group we published four or five chap books, all of them quite fine. Mine was titled King Midas in Reverse. It follows a dude who can animate, at least in his own thoughts, any inanimate objects. The problem is, the objects stay alive, develop personalities, and at some point, rebel. It’s an absurdist story handled with the utmost realism and sincerity. It’s pretty good. Here’s a link to the amazon page.

I wrote this in my Philip K. Dick phase. I discovered him late, and read through most of his oeuvre in my early twenties. This was no small feat; his body of work encompasses some 40 novels and over 200 short stories. He’s a skillful, funny, deeply humane writer who is intelligent, yet disturbed. He has a way of constructing his novels that isn’t readily apparent, but is very effective. (I’ll write a series of essays on him later.) He’s exactly the type of writer who will infect your work if you aren’t careful. He definitely invaded mine. I felt so close to him I began to read the various biographies and discovered that we shared a literary hero. He claimed that literature began for him with Babbitt. The same is true for me.

I was nineteen, taking a modern novels class. We read Conrad’s The Secret Agent, which is stunning, and William Dean Howells who is fine once you adapt to his Victorian cadences; and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw which is quite good; and some other turn of the century novels I’ve since forgotten. And Babbitt. I was fearful of a snore, but it caught fire right away. Babbitt is so neurotic and self-deceiving that, well, you end up rooting for him as he falls on his face time and time again. The result is a work of realism that reads like a thriller. Or a comedy. Or a tragedy. Or all three. It tore off the top of my skull and opened my eyes to the magic of everyday people. I loved it so much that I based the main character in Between Lives loosely on Babbitt.

Many of Dick’s books begin with one basic concept and then allow that idea to blossom into its logical, if absolutely demented, conclusion. I took the same approach here, and blasted this out in a few days. I refined, took it to the writers’ group, and Foster did some editing on it, too, but the core of the manuscript was completed fast and furious. (I took this same approach with my next novel, The Fifteen Deaths of Jeffrey Allen Butler.)

There are probably 90 copies out there, give or take 20. For some reason, this little book resonated with people who read it. Randall told me, wisely, to put it in a drawer and come back to it in a couple of years. Good advice, but I think for young writers it’s better to put stuff out and take the knocks. (I didn’t realize until years later how important it is for a writer to engage with the world.) I never wanted to be the type of writer who labors over two or three novels his entire life and then dies. I wanted to propel myself through fifteen or twenty novels, moving forward with the taste of blood in my mouth, like a shark.

Anyway, here’s the first line:

“The clock began talking to Robert thirty minutes before it was set to alarm.”

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One Response to “The first line of my third (and this time published) novel(la): King Midas in Reverse.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Interlude 2: A found fragment. | simoneandthesilversurfer - August 30, 2014

    […] part 3: minor success […]

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