Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Well, isn't this weird.

A brief observation here. It's no secret that my favorite writers on the planet are Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll. I wear my influences proudly not just on my sleeve, but tattooed across my forehead. I also like Stephen King, Nick Bantock and Dave McKean. (And, here, I want to throw a quick Bad Dave, no cookie out to Mr. McKean, who does not have an official site of his own; is owned and operated by Allen Spiegel Fine Arts, who are a wonderful peddler of his fine wares but does not offer the kind of wonderful stuff as, which is, alas, woefully out of date and doesn't feature the one thing which would make the ultimate McKean website perfect: a weblog by the artist himself. Oh, well. Maybe after Mirrormask wraps we'll find ourselves gifted with just such a thing, as part of the promotional materials.)

Um. Right. Where was I? Oh, yes.

The point of this rambling tirade is that last night my friend Ruth and I were sitting in a Mexican restaurant, and somehow I got lured into the "So what's your novel about?" ramble. (I should warn everyone out there who is ever likely to talk to me in person that the "So what's your novel about?" ramble is a long, self-deprecating, drawn-out affair that tends to start out general and then get way too specific way too fast. If you really want to know, ask. If you're just being polite, don't – I'll talk both your ears off, and most likely your nose and both eyes as well.) After that conversation (and several more) had concluded and we were settling up the tab, I started thinking about what I've been writing here this week about influences and art, and then thinking about my novel.

While writing it, I've been overly conscious of two things: one, that the basic plot point got swiped by an episode of The Simpsons several seasons back, which pissed me off because I still haven't seen the episode in question (nor do I think I want to, at least not until after this project is done) and two, that given the depths in which I wallow in the work of my influences, I'm terrified that I'll come across as the "poor man's Gaiman".

Last night, after my ramble, I realized something. My book is almost nothing like anything any of these guys have produced. It's barely Gaimanesque. It's barely anything. What it is is several hundred pages of pure me. One part philosophy, one part mythology, one part technology, one part action, one part romance, and one part setsunai, which is an absolutely wonderful Japanese word introduced to me lately by the great Adam Greenfield in this post, wherein he writes:

There's no good single word for this feeling in English; I generally think of it as setsunai, which is a close-to-untranslatable Japanese word I can best render as "that beauty which is also melancholy or painful." Setsunai, to me, is a feeling of glances and gestures made in pictures, when through what is in the photographic frame you are offered some tiny understanding of what is outside it and must remain outside it.
Yeah, it's like that.

Bones of the Angel is rife with the same feeling of sweet sadness that weaves its way through almost all of my stuff, especially Small States and Auld Lang Syne, except with the occasional shootout or car crash. There are probably echoes of Gaiman and Carroll and McKean in this piece, insofar as they, too, have a certain feeling of setsunai as well. But it's also its own thing, which I'm growing prouder of as it meanders on towards completion. It feels very much like a first novel, even though it's not; I've written several other things like this that will never see the light of day, but I needed to get those out of my system. But it feels like a first novel because I feel like it has touches of just about everything I'm always going to write about. It's most likely the longest thing I've ever written, and is much more philosophical than any long piece I've ever done. It's coming into focus, which is a wonderful and terrific feeling. It's gaining cohesion. It's coming together. And it, most wonderfully of all, is its own thing.

Rereading this post, I realize how utterly self-congratulatory this sounds. Please don't think I'm being arrogant here – this is the voice of a man who finds that a weed that's been plaguing his garden for half a decade is finally starting to bloom, and it turns out to be really beautiful and cool. Once this particular writing jag fades and the writer's block comes back, or once I start going back over this and finding that it doesn't read nearly as well the second or tenth time, the buzz will probably fade, but right now someone could ask me, "Yeah, but do you believe in it?" And right now, right now, I could smile with a gleam in my eye and say, "Yeah. Yeah, I really do."

I can't wait to show this to you guys. I might be the only person ever who enjoys it this much, but I think it's really cool, and I'm hoping you will too. As always, stay tuned.


Let's have a race: your novel vs. my screenplay. You've got a big head start, but I've got a lot of free time coming up... ;)

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