Posts Tagged ‘novel’
Seven o’clock in the evening. A hot and moth-populated mountain night. Gasteneau sat alone in a rundown motel on the outskirts of town, a cheap room that he’d rented for this reason, because it was cheap, and because he could have it by the day or by the week, and because it was spacious and commanded a view of the outlying plains.
Outside, it was not dark yet, but all his shades were pulled. He sat in a corner of the room upon an old sofa. He sat fully dressed and with his hair combed back, as if he was going somewhere, but he did not move and had not moved for some time. On the arm of the sofa lay a black cigarette lighter and a pair of pliers. He appeared lost in his thoughts, his face haggard and ill-at-ease. An iron band of pain tightened around his head. He was sure now that he had not been imagining things after all, his old sickness was indeed lurking there, just beneath the surface, pulling at him persistently, and it was only with a great concentration of will that he could fend it off.
He had been sitting in the room the entire day, growing more and more uneasy. He had trained himself to wait in this way, motionless, hour after hour, like a prisoner. But something else was happening as well: an old injury to the big toe of his left foot had begun reasserting itself, nothing serious at first, a minor ache, but building and building until at this moment his toe was pounding away with each beat of his heart. It was a running injury caused from his toes banging repeatedly against the tops of his tennis shoes—except this time, as had happened once before, when he was in the army, in addition to the bruising, the toe itself had become infected, so that blood could freely flow in but could not escape. Periungal hematoma. The words kept running through the corridors of his brain, volleying, it felt to him, around the acoustical concavities of his skull.
Half an hour passed, one hour. A moth landed on his face, its touch light and dry. He did not brush it away. The room grew dark. The walls were filled with shadows. Finally, he reached up and snapped on the overhead light. He leaned forward and removed his shoes. He sat barefoot. His big toe, feeling to him now rather like an epicenter from which great waves of pain ceaselessly and concentrically pulsed, had become turgid and huge, the nail obsidian-black.
“Jesus,” he said aloud. He’d been afraid to look, and now he grew frightened.
At that moment, his gaze, shifting to the right, saw reflected in the dead cyclopean eye of the television screen a white envelope as it was being slid beneath his door. He gasped, turned his head.
He stared for thirty seconds, almost afraid to move. Had he not been paying attention, he may very well have missed it; for it had been pushed beneath the door in such a way as to slide under a nearby dresser, where it might have gone unnoticed, perhaps for years.
But he was paying attention, he was always paying attention.
He stood up and hobbled over to the door. He opened it a crack and peered out.
It was very dark. Still, he thought he caught the tailend of a long coat flapping once in the breeze; then it disappeared around the corner of the open hallway. Upon second thought, he was not sure. His palm, still clutching the doorknob, felt clammy. In the east, the moon was hovering up, pared so thinly now and with the earthshine so bright that the moon itself looked like silver pincers delicately a large gray ball.
Joel’s head swam. He did not trust his vision. All day long, in fact, he had been watching multicolored planets orbit slowly in front of his eyes and then explode without a sound. His toe was a live scorpion hanging off the end of his foot. It even occurred to him that maybe the envelope was not there after all.
He bent down to look.
There the envelope lay, peeking out from beneath the dresser. He closed the door, dead-bolted and chain-locked it. He reached down. He placed his fingernail on the corner of the envelope and eased it out. The carpet had cigarette burns here and there across it. His head as he bent over throbbed in unison with his toe. He slit the envelope open with his pinky. A small note on thick paper fell out into his hand. It said:
God is dead.
You are going to die.
His body went cold. His scalp numbed. He felt as if he might lose consciousness at any moment. He looked down again at the note in his hand. He reread it:
I learned a few things that might interest you.
Coffee at The Clear Sky, 11:00 AM?
He squished his eyes shut and rubbed his eyes. After several minutes, he read the note a third time:
God is dead.
You are going to die.
What the hell was going on? He tried to think; he could not think; he could not process anything. Greatly perturbed, he set the envelope and the note on the dresser and went for the pliers. He reached up and removed a framed seascape from the wall and then wiggled out the thin nail that the picture had been hanging upon. He sat back down on the sofa and, holding the end of the nail with the pliers, ran a lighter flame all along the nail-tip. His brows were deeply knitted.
In the army, they had fixed his toe roughly this same way, years ago.
In no time, he had the thin metal pulsing hot-pink. Large beads of sweat stood out along his forehead and along his upper lip, and the flame was reflected individually in each bead. His brow glowed like expensive wood.
He dropped the cigarette lighter onto the floor and leaned forward. Blood poured into his head. Sweat dripped onto the carpet. He looked once more at his toe: from the swelling, the skin was stretched out so taut that the whole top part of the toe glinted dully, the color of lead, a leaden ball. Another peristaltic wave of lightheadedness coursed through him. He closed his eyes, waiting for it to knock him over or to pass. It passed. He opened his eyes slowly. Concentrate, he thought, you’ve got to stay focused. He squeezed the pliers as tightly as he was able, and then without further reflection he jammed the molten metal through the top of his toenail and down into the flesh, extracted it. It took three seconds. A tiny geyser of infected pus and blood erupted, the engorged tissue squealing thinly, like a hog fetus, and then a blinding flash of white-hot light filled his vision, and after that all he saw was black.
Editor’s note: That was excerpted from Chapter 9 of this book:
“Bizarre things are beginning to happen to Joel Gasteneau.”
So begins a new review of More and More unto the Perfect Day — an EXPLOSIVE excerpt of which can be read here — from Chanticleer Book Reviews, which, I confess, I’d never heard of until recently and was surprised to come across.
The review — by L Wilson Hunt — was brief but articulate and, I thought, EXPLOSIVE:
Bizarre things are beginning to happen to Joel Gasteneau. A strange illness has left him feeling weak and haunted by vivid dreams, and he feels that he is being followed. Exhausted and fearful, he decides to abandon his life as a pensive drifter and focus on a long-neglected project: To find a durable proof for the existence of God.
This pursuit will run Joel through a gauntlet of self-discovery, one that will challenge the very limits of his mental and physical endurance.
In a solid telling of a complex story of mystery and intrigue, author Ray Harvey assumes the role of master illusionist. Clues abound, but can Joel trust them? What is he really experiencing? Viral fever flashbacks? The eruption of long-buried memories? Reality? More questions than answers emerge as the reader is drawn into another world, where mysticism and philosophy tangle and clash across a stunningly-rendered, often other-worldly landscape.
The novel is stocked with well-developed, fascinating entities. Joel’s father, Neil, a brilliant and deeply ascetic man, has a weakness for violence and his own definition for the word “blood.” Has he killed in the past? And, if so, will he again, and soon? Another entity is a stranger that Joel encounters called Tom, a sort of human/alien hybrid, who seems to know too much about Joel’s past. Along with these characters are oddly-shaped, silver clouds that seem to be keeping a watchful eye on Joel’s whereabouts.
The story owns a unique lyricism; one of an eerily faint off-key melody constantly echoing through the richly orchestrated atmospherics. And there is a rhythm, a strong pulse, which propels the narrative to its startling and memorable ending.
With its frequent references to philosophy and literature, “More and More Unto the Perfect Day” can, at times, be a cerebral read. However, it ultimately offers a rewarding, rather hypnotic and moving experience—memorable and sufficiently haunting to merit additional readings.
Thank you, L Wilson Hunt.
If you’re not intrigued yet, wait until you hear me read the Prelude in my
sultriest surliest voice:
One of the primary reasons — and it’s a perfectly legitimate reason — that people give me for not finishing their book is that they don’t have time to write.
The good news is that at least half of the writing and plotting process takes place inside the mind, and you can do a great deal of important work when you’re driving, exercising, bathing, lying in bed, walking, gardening, et cetera. That process is called thinking.
Thinking must be approached systematically and with focus (e.g. “What are you going to do now?” “I’m going to think for a while.”)
In writing a story — particularly a long story — you’re presented with innumerable details and innumerable problems all of which you must sort out and solve. Many if not most of these are best done not when you’re sitting at your keyboard or over your manuscript with pen-and-paper, but when you’re alone with your own thoughts.
It may sound formulaic and overly systematic, and it may at first feel as if you’re bleeding the romance out of the writing process, but please hear me on this: writing a story is like working out a puzzle — a puzzle of your own devising — and the sooner you learn to approach it in this way, the sooner you’ll be able to finish your book.
[Note: I've updated this post and changed the dialogue example]
In Part 1 of this post, I mentioned that a fictional character is shaped by his or her words and actions, and that for this reason, plot and dialogue are the sine-qua-non of character development. The following, then, taken from an actual book (written in first person), is an example of how this is so:
I drove us to my trailer in Metairie.
“This is where you live?” she said.
That’s how it actually appears in the novel. Now read it this way:
I drove us to my trailer in Metairie.
“This is where you live?” she said.
It’s only a one-word difference, but note how much that one word changes your view of the character.