I have been neglecting my blog because of an Amazon.com contest for a first novel, for which they are receiving 5000 entries. A friend told me about this, a friend who dedicated himself, though a realtor, to producing a novel in a matter of weeks for the contest. I haven’t checked back with him; I really don’t want to be asked to read his output, though I’m sure its genius is unrivaled. That’s a lot of Chutzpah on his part. There are people who can write well at that pace, like the prolific Joyce Carol Oates, but I don’t think life as a realtor is the best preparation.
If he wins I’ll kill myself.
So I got through a third draft and began a fourth draft (largely incomplete) of “The Abomination” before today, the day I must mail the ms. and a 5,000-word excerpt to Amazon. In the revision process the book has been cut from 120,000 words to 85,000, roughly 30%, which I take as a good sign. For sustaining interest the book relies heavily on character, although the plot includes four murders and some science fiction and religious mumbo-jumbo.
Meanwhile the Edwin Mellen Press has agreed to look at my T. S. Eliot ms.
Also, an editor from a paying magazine solicited poems from me and took two out of three. So things are looking up.
It’s hard for an artist to dissociate his self-esteem from his work, but I try. My psychological defense against “failure” is very primitive; I belittle my work and give it no chance to succeed. Thus I prevent disappointment by already being disappointed. Still I can’t help feeling my little heart go bumpety-bump to know some Oxford professor will be taking my Eliot ms. seriously.
In other news, the friend I recovered at Rachel’s memorial service has been plying me eloquently with the neglected news of Christians' contributions to art and civilization. He bragged that the Christian monasteries kept the classics alive for the Renaissance. I said why didn’t the dumb monks read the books and start a Renaissance? He's wonderful debater and writer and rhetorical cheat, and I’ve enjoyed our interchanges thoroughly, just as the resumption of our friendship has been the one good thing that came out of Rachel’s death for me. As daughter Sarah says, 18 (though already bitten by the Chaffin black humor bug), “And all I got was this car.”
Mushrooming season has started. The other night I smothered Kathleen’s pot roast in honey mushrooms, and the result was heavenly. Nothing like fresh mushrooms for delicate spicing and good gravy. One of these nights we’ll eat all wild: Abalone, wild mushrooms and a salad of local leaves. But I’ll have to add rice. I like rice or potatoes with nearly every dinner that isn't soup. And although I may be accused of blasphemy in the matter, I prize potatoes over macaroni and cheese as well as meatloaf as the ultimate comfort food. And there's no German or Irish in me.
I’m at kiloneutral today. I still don’t feel as if the ground is absolutely solid beneath my feet, but for someone who just endured a depression for a year-and-a-half, this is not surprising. I may never feel the ground is solid again. I know I can fall victim to bad chemicals at any time. Still, the background threat of “groundlessness,” as Buddhists call it, also increases my gratefulness for every moment I’m not depressed. Funny how that works.