Beginagain

Truman Capote once said, “Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.” I wouldn’t be so lurid—because I’m not Truman Capote—but he’s onto something.

The final physical proof of my book just arrived and, now that I’ve clicked approval online, it is officially complete, ready for production, publication, or whatever you name it. In five to seven business days, it will appear on Amazon. This moment comes after six months laboring alone on my laptop, conceiving, composing, revising, arranging, editing, rearranging, proofing, drawing, scanning, and generally working. You might expect me to be proud or at least relieved, but mostly I feel odd.

With some tasks, reaching the end seems the least of your ambitions. Once you’ve put in the training and know you can complete a marathon, you wait to do it. The race date is out there already and, if you’re lucky with health and weather and rest, you will do it. At the appointed place and time, it happens. Then instantly you become a former marathoner or begin training again. Either way, the chapter closes—sometimes the whole book closes—and the event is indelibly written, unalterable, and consigned to memory.

Many milestones I’m happy to put in my past, but this book is different. As long as I was working, it was becoming. As long as I was in the book, it remained a vital place. What will happen now?

Maybe the next chapter won’t be as fun. Perhaps no one will read the book or, worse, no one will say a word beyond “That’s nice” or “Great doodles,” or “What an accomplishment!” Though it seems silly to write a book to talk about it, I’d love to play a real author and discuss what I’ve done, but, just as with a marathon, no one may care to say much beyond “Congratulations!”

Capote is right to compare a book to a child. Compulsion comes with writing and revising. You give hardly a thought to anything outside making something beautiful. You watch your child and play. You invest hope in the child’s development and growth. But Capote is also right that, once a book is complete, hope is moot. I’d prefer not to shoot my child, thank you very much, but children eventually make their own ways in the world. You have your chance, and chances pass.

I had so much fun writing this book that I’m strangely embarrassed when I talk about it, as if I’d like to say, “Oops, I’ve written a book.” Of course, I feel proud of my labor, but, as Victor Hugo said, “There is visible labor and invisible labor.” The visible labor—the object—represents so much invisible labor, the idle thoughts and daydreams and play with imagery and language now integrated into the thing. Things are made precious by our attention. I worry no result from this point forward will assuage my loss. I worry I’ll miss the child, prefer it to whatever happens next.

Next comes pitching my book, trying to get people to buy it and read it so I can recover the cost of making it. I’m supposed to believe in it—and I do. I’m grateful to all the people who have expressed support. I’m anxious to share my work and am happy with how it’s turned out. Maybe the fear I feel now is absurd, and that the best of part of writing The Lost Work of Wasps hasn’t happened yet.

Yet I’m surprised to learn finishing was never a true goal. This whole process has been about process. To make a process real you must complete it, and now I want to begin again.

Update: When I originally wrote this post, I hadn’t received the physical proof or approved it, but I’ve edited the post to reflect the completion of both those steps. If you want to order a copy, you can do so on CreateSpace now or on Amazon starting October 5th.

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24 Comments

Filed under Aesthetics, Ambition, Art, Doubt, Essays, Hope, Laments, life, Sturm und Drang, Thoughts, Work, Worry, Writing

24 responses to “Beginagain

  1. well you’ve already sold one to me and it’s not even on amazon yet so bask in that (and I wholeheartedly agree with Truman Capote’s description)

    • dmarshall58

      Thank you! And though I’d prefer not to agree with Truman Capote on finishing books, I have to. Sometimes it’s annoying how well he put things… leaves little for the rest of us to do. Thanks for visiting. –D

      • apparently TC’s partner wrote a very good book. Do you perhaps know anything about it? (just a shot in the dark no pressure)

      • dmarshall58

        I know Jack Dunphy was a novelist in his own right, and, though I’ve never read one of his books, a friend who has tells me he’s a capable and interesting writer. He wrote a book about Capote called Dear Genius: A Memoir of My Life with Truman Capote sometime in the 80’s but, apparently he said that was a novel too. Your question makes me curious about reading his work–maybe one of his novels will make it onto that library list I never seem to reach the end of. Thanks for commenting! –D

      • Apparently he (I’m presuming Jack was the dancer) wrote one very special novel that some say is/was (I guess it’s out of print) better than anything Capote ever wrote. Maybe just one of those urban legends, but I’m curious. Will follow up the bios meanwhile. Thanks for putting me on the right track.

      • dmarshall58

        I have asked a couple of Capote fans at work, and they aren’t sure which novel of Jack Dunphy (yes, the dancer) might be considered equal to Capote’s. One did say that Capote didn’t think much of Dunphy’s work, which seems possible. Capote could be quite dismissive of authors he didn’t like. For instance, he said of Kerouac’s On the Road, “That not writing, that’s typing.” I’ll keep investigating, and, if I find out anything, I’ll affix it here. –D

      • Thanks! I consider it generally safe to dismiss all Capote’s comments on other people’s books.

      • My friend, you must be getting sick of this! Last word: have ordered a copy of John Fury (at great expense because of shipping!). Rather encouraging review on amazon.

  2. hhstheater

    You don’t mess around, David! I wasn’t expecting you to be done so soon. As someone who’s been “working” on a book for many years, I admire the persistence and dedication that have brought about the birth of this new book in the world, and I eagerly await the opportunity to hold it in my hands.

    • dmarshall58

      Well, you have to understand that, though this book contains a lot of new material, it’s partly an anthology of repaired, re-envisioned, rearranged, and revised pieces from my blog. I hope that doesn’t diminish the book for anyone because, for me, it was a sort of writing reckoning. Once I started it, I needed to have my say and worked on it almost relentlessly.

      Now I guess I have to start being a full-time teacher again.

      You also need to understand that my children are (mostly) perfectly content to let me sit in the corner and type away. That’s a luxury I’m sure you don’t have. You will finish your book, and I will be its first fan. –D

      • hhstheater

        Just ordered a copy of The Lost Work of Wasps on Amazon. Do you have a book on cd in the works? 🙂

      • dmarshall58

        Well, you know, I desperately want a career as a audio book reader. Oddly, I did pay for the book to be converted to Kindle–it wasn’t that expensive–and it’s supposed to be out in 3 or 4 weeks. I don’t own a Kindle, but I may borrow one from our school library to at least look at it. This book release experience has been odd. I look forward to talking to people who have read the book. Until then, some part of my imagination will be telling me they’re embarrassed to tell me it’s amateurish or that they’re underwhelmed. That’s just the way my mind works, unfortunately. –D

    • hhstheater

      Your book was waiting for me when I arrived home late this evening following a rehearsal. I’m very tired for lack of sleep and late night grading sessions the last few days, but I’ve dipped in and must say what I’ve read so far is beautiful. I’ve read and reread and read again “Final Transmission to Pioneer 10,” and I have this urge to keep reading and rereading it. It reminds me of when I was first starting my MFA and when I was discovering (by reading published poets) how a poem moved–that description doesn’t accurately express the wonder and excitement of this process of discovering the slow, unfolding mysteries of an unfamiliar poem, but reading your book’s opening poem brought back that feeling with a flash. Looking forward to savoring every bite of this!

      • hhstheater

        P.S. I know you’re not on Facebook, but I just sent some love (and hopefully some readers) your way on there 🙂

      • dmarshall58

        I AM on Facebook, actually. For a time, I discontinued, but I just rejoined, hoping to get more tied into the modern world and all the people I might otherwise lose track of.

        I hope you’ll “friend” me (even though I’ll never get used to verbing a noun). –D

      • dmarshall58

        What a beautiful comment. Thank you. All along, I’ve said I’d love to be a real author for a time, to talk about “my work” and discuss the thinking behind what I’m trying to do. Most of the time, that feels like a pretty self-indulgent fantasy, but I do take writing seriously. It’s a sort of devotion in the end, the feeling that, if you’re going to do it, you ought to attempt to rise to the standard of literature you admire and love. That’s probably too high an aspiration for someone like me, but I’m earnest enough to try. I hope you’ll enjoy the book. I so appreciate your support. –D

      • hhstheater

        I don’t know why, but it took me a while to realize that the subtitle to your book was literal, which makes me like it all the more. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book like this before—I love how the parts work with and against each other and how my reader’s mind is forever working to make connections between them, even as your words are sparking imaginative flights and memories of my own. The way the book moves, partly reminds me of Lynn Hejinian’s My Life, which I love. There’s a strange pleasure for me each time those wasps reappear, and like her work, you seem to weave into the book’s structure clues as to how to read it, as in the section on stanzas, which seems to imply (to me, at least) that each of the book’s titles is a kind of room in this fun house, or (alternatively) each one is a section of a wasp’s nest. Your words and memories and thoughts keep drawing me back into the recesses of my own mind and my own memories, which is a wonderful gift for a book to give a reader. At the same time, it keeps drawing me out of myself, a process I enjoy with equal relish. As for the literary company one might imagine oneself amongst, your humility reminds me of Keats’ nameless epitaph, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water” and Dickinson’s admission, “I’m Nobody! Who are you? / Are you – Nobody – too?”

      • dmarshall58

        The funny thing is that I see models of this approach everywhere now, but perhaps I’m projecting. My closest models were Kenko and haibun, and I hoped to accomplish just what you describe, to create a ghost between the stories, a voice that eluded any specific narrative. It’s an easy (and fun) form to write, but perhaps a not-so-easy form to control. I spent hours rearranging pieces, and some gaps seemed (and still seem) hard to bridge. In the end, I took consolation from the idea that contradiction and incompletion are vital aspects of art too. But that may be a rationalization.

        I’ve ordered a copy of My Life and look forward to reading it. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to talk about the book. It makes me feel like a real author instead of a guy who spent all summer shuffling words. –D

  3. I am looking forward to reading it as well. I also agree with Capote– and how you’ve elaborated on that thought, but just as much agree with you that perhaps the best is yet to come. And I’m going to say it anyway: congratulations.

    Your book’s subject matter reminds me of a favorite line from a favorite poem:

    …on the highway overpass,
    the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
    MEMORY LOVES TIME
    in big black spraypaint letters,

    which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

    ( A Color of the Sky, Tony Hoagland)

  4. The book by Jack Dunphy has to be “John Fury” 1946. Just tried to order off Amazon with no luck.

  5. “John Fury” hasn’t arrived yet but “The Lost Work of Wasps” has (via my Kindle). I was half hoping for poetry, and in a way it is … so far. Congratulations to you and your family. I hope you have a special celebration planned!

    • dmarshall58

      I hope you have a Kindle that shows color. The doodles looked a little strange when I saw them in the preview window (I don’t own a Kindle, actually), and I can’t imagine them as black and white. Some of them are on derelict satellite though, if you need to see them in color. Thanks so much for supporting this project… I’m hoping to hear some reviews soon. Few people have said much so far, which has led me to believe I might have written a book so bad people are embarrassed to speak to me again! –D

      • hillarysangel

        My kindle is only B&W so I’ll follow your derelict satellite (thanks). I was also nervous when friends took ages to respond after they downloaded my book, but have discovered that some take much longer than others to finish a book (for various reasons) and it’s no indication that they don’t “relate” to it, so don’t panic! In my case I’m reading several other books at the same time, including “John Fury”, which arrived today… more about that in my next post…

      • dmarshall58

        I look forward to hearing your reports on all your reading. –D

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