Monday, November 17, 2014

Why don't you write me?

Hello. It has been a while since I have posted anything, and so I have a number of updates.

Tomorrow, my first book, Decomposition, will be officially published. I guess that’s a milestone for me. For those of you who don’t know, Decomposition began as a dissertation (I defended it way back in 2004)—and in 2009, in a fit of boredom, I began publishing pieces of it on this very blog. In that form it was soon discovered by the woman who would become my agent—the amazing Barbara Clark. One thing led to another, and here we are.

For what it’s worth, a lot of work went into revising the book from its dissertation version. Three years of work, in fact. I mention this only because one of the critiques that seems to be emerging (in the Amazon Vine reviews, at least) is that the book is difficult and academic. Which is not to say that Decomposition is not difficult and academic (fair warning, though your mileage may vary)—only that, if it is, it is probably a lot less difficult and academic than it used to be.

Still, I’m pleased that the Amazon Vine reviews are, on the whole, favorable—even some of those who struggled with the content gave it high marks, and at the moment there are two 5 star reviews. All of which is certainly gratifying. 

I simultaneously have two other book projects going on, each of which is occupying a good deal of my attention (one reason I haven’t been blogging much). First is another non-fiction book, which at the moment is just an idea, really . . . a set of notes and sketches. I have wanted for a while to do a Decomposition-type book (that is, a turn-conventional-wisdom-on-its-head-type book) about each of the three subjects my mother insists shouldn’t be discussed in public: religion, politics, and sex. So I have embarked on the first of these—an agnostic argument about religion, belief, epistemology, and ethics, informed by my years as a church organist here in Portland.

My other book project is much closer to completion. Actually, I thought I had completed it last Spring—it’s a novel I wrote for my daughter, about a tree that grows across the Cosmos and connects two worlds, and the cat who travels between them. Over the summer, I decided (based on some expert advice from Barbara) that it needed more work. I guess I hadn’t fully appreciated that it can take more than twelve months to write a first novel . . .

So I have been deep in revisions on this cat book through most of the Fall. It’s utterly different from any creative work I have yet undertaken—less beholden to the “real world” facts that guide non-fiction writing, but somehow more dependent on a clear internal logic than any of the instrumental music I write. Not that my instrumental music has no internal logic—though I’m sure not everyone thinks so!—just that that logic doesn’t need to be communicated to the audience as explicitly. With music, I can just sort of “feel” where a piece works, without necessarily having to articulate its structure to myself or anyone else. In a novel, you have to use these things called words . . .

So I’ll get back to it. I hope to post here more regularly in the weeks ahead—though I should say that I haven’t had much interest in the controversies that have dogged the jazz world over the last year (everything from the Sonny Rollins satire to that Mostly Other People Do the Killing Album). There was a time when I would have been all over that stuff. But now the idea of engaging it feels so unproductive—even unhealthy. So I’ll probably post more broadly about music, or fiction, or writing in general, as I can.

Thanks for reading!