Monday, January 29, 2024

HOW CAN A BOOK HAVE NO AUTHOR? (in which I interview myself)

Image by <a href="">OpenClipart-Vectors</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>
My new novel is called A Book with No Author (see the cover in the right-hand column). Like a child just launching into the big wide world, this book is very demanding. It’s asking for support. It wants me to talk about it more, so I will heed its wishes. Maybe the best way is to do something that could almost be a scene from the novel, in which identities are multiple. I’ll interview myself. Or rather, BR1 will interview BR2.

BR1: A book without an author? Is this a joke?

BR2: Hold on. Let’s do this without a condescending attitude.

BR1: Okay, my apologies. Why the paradoxical title?

BR2: I like paradox, so it’s a title that would appeal to me as a reader. It may seem that I’m negating myself as an author, and maybe that’s true because sometimes it seems that stories come out of the ether rather than out of the lump of gray matter inside my skull. I often wonder, what is authorship, exactly? Is it really creation from scratch or is it something more like taking dictation from the cosmos?

BR1: Maybe those are the same thing.

BR2: Maybe. But to bring the title a little more down to earth—there is a book within the book, an abandoned manuscript whose author can’t be found. The search for the elusive author is a central plot element of the novel.

BR1: Hmm…a search for the author. Sounds like a metaphor.

BR2: Well, I want readers to interpret it in whatever way appeals to them. The book is also an exploration of identity, as well as—

BR1: So it’s a metaphysical detective story. I heard that’s a thing.

BR2: Okay, I guess it could fit that category. I don’t like categories, but apparently books require one these days. I was just going to add that this novel is also a story about people’s everyday struggles with relationships, family, work, substance abuse, religion. And place.

BR1: Where is the story set?

BR2: It takes place mostly in Manhattan and New Jersey, and there are several significant scenes out west in Utah. The final section is set in the town of Woodstock, New York, where I live. And where you live, too.

BR1: Of course. And I happen to know that there is a character in the book with my name. Which is also your name. What’s up with that?

BR2: I like playing little metafictional games, like we sometimes see in Nabokov’s work, Paul Auster’s work, and others. It makes writing more fun for me. And for readers as well—maybe they have a richer, more multi-layered experience, when they can wonder about the fuzzy borderline between truth and fiction, and think about other things besides the plot.

BR1: You still haven’t actually said much about the plot of your novel.

BR2: Well, it’s rather convoluted. In the book within the book, a freelance videographer in New York City, recovering from a difficult divorce, discovers that someone else has written and published fiction about his private life. This puts him into a spiral of dysfunction that exacerbates the pre-existing problems with his ex, his kids, his livelihood, his own self-image. On another level, the man who reads this story in a manuscript that arrived in the mail by mistake, also becomes obsessed with finding the author, and encounters his own set of problems.

BR1: Sounds a bit like 3D chess or something.

BR2: Well, one reader called it a Rubik’s Cube, which I like, but it’s much more than just a puzzle to be solved. She also said it was “tenderly invested in characters,” which is what I hope to do in all my work. To ground it in human issues, and then take flights of fancy that question reality, et cetera.

BR1: This all seems to be an exercise in poioumenon.

BR2: In what? Did you just make up that word?

BR1: No, it’s a real thing. Poioumenon. It refers to a specific type of metafiction in which the story deals with the process of creation.

BR2: Okay, if you say so. I like it!

Thanks for reading. To learn more, please visit the Recital Publishing website.

To hear me narrate an excerpt from the book, as well as answer some real interview questions, I hope you’ll relax for a half hour and listen to this episode of The Strange Recital podcast: