Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What? No murders?!

In the thirteen stories that make up The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility there are no murders. Nor are there any pimps, hookers, gangsters, junkies, pedophiles, or terrorists. There are no movie stars, rock stars, or fashion models. There are no aliens or monsters, no witches or wizards. There is not a single evil conspiracy.

Yet I would like people to buy the book. And read it. Am I crazy?

Some folks would say so. They might say, "So what could possibly be in it then?" They might say, "People need entertainment; ya gotta give 'em a thrill." They might say, "The current marketplace demands blah blah blah..."

I personally don't know any murderers, pimps, hookers, gangsters, movie stars, rock stars (ok, maybe a couple...), terrorists, models, aliens, monsters, witches, or wizards. I've known a few junkies in times gone by, and about pedophiles... well, I don't know. All those characters occupy their very solid niches in our culture, and their stories can make good entertainment, even high art. In fact, a survey of the market may give the impression that one (or several) of them is absolutely mandatory for a compelling story. But that would be a false impression. The real requirements are heart, truth, and writing craft. Quiet stuff. In fact, call me perverse, but when I see the deluge of loud cover art in most bookstores, proclaiming the value of violence and glitz, my urge is to run the other direction. And take my writing there too.

Oops, lost dollars. Oh well. As Popeye said, "I yam what I yam!"

Wick Poetry Prize winner Djelloul Marbrook gives me some good support with this back cover blurb:
"Subtlety ought to be on an endangered literary species list, but Brent Robison brilliantly makes the case for its essentiality in this exquisite collection of webbed stories. These stories argue that everything is a facet of the same jewel and we touch each other’s lives in unfathomable ways. To read them is to heighten one’s bond with strangers."

So... what is here in these stories is ordinary people -- people like you and me, fully engaged in lives packed with struggles of various kinds, but almost never with evil, explosions, glamor, or gore.

Thankfully, murder touches very few of our lives; in this book, there is one attempted but unsuccessful, and the mass murders of 9-11 and Iraq loom just offstage.

And of other deaths, there is no shortage. There is love and its attendant strife. There is addiction. There are families broken and whole. There are urban streets, country roads, jazz, sex, storms, car crashes, office doldrums, desert skies, artists, Mormons, hospital rooms, petty crime, storms, Navajos, popcorn, and emptiness. There are also ideas.

Maybe my next book will have ideas too, plus a murder. We'll have to wait and see.


  1. Nice post. The insights are very much appreciated - I have found myself defending my novel because it has no car chases. :)

    I believe there is an audience out there for all our work, and that writing bravely and from someplace in our souls (not what we are told will sell) is our responsibility. Otherwise, the writing becomes a product... and somehow then writing loses all its appeal for me.

  2. You have the right idea about writing - even if it doesn't sell a lot. There are other payments besides money.

    I'm reading Indivisibility now and enjoying it, thought I'd let you know.