Mixing metaphors instead of cocktails, or why I’ll never write The Great Novel


I don’t know how to write a book. I’ve read thousands of them and some were quite good, I just don’t know how to write one.

I make poems instead. So many that they’ve become a long string of ribbons tied to my arms and legs and waist to flutter behind me all the way into the needle point of the horizon line, all the way back to my first fat number two pencil. Making poems is the only weapon I ever had against growing up or growing old.

It wasn’t much of a weapon, though, because I’ve done both.

I still have these twisting poem ribbons. That’s a comfort. They tie me to my life like gauzy lifelines. Without them I’m an astronaut unleavened by oxygen strings and invisible radio waves carrying my labored voice. Without poetry I’m a rudderless kite. I’m Major Tom.

I’d really like to write a book, though. I really would, but the world is too viscous and I can’t slog through to the end. Every moment is a handful of soap bubble images, stuck together and popping and wondrous and consuming. I can’t take my eyes off the tiny things long enough to understand the underlying chemistry of soap, so the bubbles open up into singular lenses and I can see perfectly through each one. To write a book takes larger thinking, an ability to truck the lens back and chart the progress of fifty soap-bubbles heading for open air.

I’m always afraid that seeing the Big Picture means eliminating handfuls of exquisite gesture, split-second connections, the texture of the moment. The world is too thick with story. I might miss something important.

I’m a beribboned astronaut paper kite losing soap between my fingers, afflicted with literary pointillism. Maybe that’s why I can’t write a book.

One thought on “Mixing metaphors instead of cocktails, or why I’ll never write The Great Novel

  1. Boy, do I get this. Life is too short, too easy to slip through our fingers, to take the time to write a book. Short stories, poems, I can handle. The Great American Novel is a dream all authors have, but it has yet to be written (unless you count The Great Gatsby). It certainly won’t be written by me.

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