Currently working on two book projects, I’m writing the non-fiction (Kenny in Infinity), finishing a novel (Body of Land), and blogging about the process.
Both book projects entail research, of course. Yesterday I ordered one book for the non-fiction research and today two for the fiction project. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; I’ve been researching both projects for years. It’s the two-to-one ratio with this book order that struck me as funny, almost poetic, though. For me, fiction generally does require twice as much research as non-fiction. It’s always been thus.
Writing my first novel, Vigil, I was simultaneously writing the non-fiction Ending Violence in Families when this paradox was explained to my editor of Ending Violence. As I submitted the revised (and re-revised and revised again) manuscript for Ending Violence, I sighed and said aloud, “Here you go. Now I can get back to my real work.”
Frank smiled while I grimaced and apologized, “That’s how tired and messed up I am. Sorry. Fiction as real, and non-fiction as unreal; what was I thinking?”
He shook his head, “Don’t apologize. What you are working on here is real, but what you’re working on with your novel, that is really real.”
That’s certainly the goal. Fiction can be like Plato’s forms, where getting it right is getting at what is really real, coming out of Plato’s cave, today a deep cave of information where truth seems buried alive. In the allegory of the cave, Plato shows himself to be a poet that he himself would exile from the Republic.
Maybe we all live in a kind of self-exile, retreating into a swamp of information to avoid the harsher light of being that our stories reveal.