Friday, June 02, 2006

Now, we get to the meaning...

I'm nearly halfway through with Love of Your Life. You may have heard me say this before but this book is so unlike anything else I've written, and I find that disturbing. If you don't know, this book is about a man who is asked to become the guardian of a young man whose mother has just died. The man, Max, and the mother, Rebecca, were friends once but everyone is left wondering why she chose Max. The book centers around Max and the young man, Arthur, and how the family copes with all of these changes.

Everyone's pretty normal, which is one of the things that make this book so unusual. For me, "fucked up" is interesting, and I like to write about people who are fucked up. These people aren't... and I find myself wondering how interesting this is and why anyone would read it.

So, last night, I started telling Vicky about it. I said, "I was writing a scene today that -"

She was watching something on TV. She gave yet another explanation of the novel, and my feelings on it, a grunt, which is probably what you're doing now. This is the life of a writer. Most people don't want to hear about your book. Most people don't want to read your book. Most people would rather wait for the movie.

Tough. I'm going to talk about it anyway.

But her grunt caused me to think about what I was going to say, rather than say it. And that made me realize something important.

I was writing a scene in which Max moves into Rebacca's old house to take care of Arthur. He's moving his stuff in and her stuff out. In the bathroom, he moves out her soap and moves in his. He moves out her shampoo and moves in his. He finds the medicine cabinet filled with pill bottles... Rebecca died of cancer...

And I began wondering, just as I believe the reader will, why is he doing this? He was Rebecca's friend once, but he has no ties to Arthur. He doesn't have to do this. So, why?

And I realized that, on a certain level, what I'm doing is writing another philosophical novel here. I'm basically asking, "Why do people try to behave ethically?" Certainly not for any reward - if that was the case, people would stop fairly quickly because there's little reward. Most people, I believe, try to behave ethically because they know that on a certain level it's the right thing to do.

I do believe that most people really try to be ethical. I know that's probably contrary to my usual skepticism but there you have it. I think that conflict stems from how people do it, the approach they take to ethics.

(If you're wondering how this applies to Shrub's administration, just keep in mind that once most Americans starting learning about the small amount of immoralities and crimes committed by the junta, few still support him.)

So, there's the conflict: the approach to ethics and why we try at all. But, unlike Vampire Society, ethics is not a character in the book. It remains in the background as the characters try, just like most people, simply to get through each day.

And when I realized this, it removed the banality in the way I looked at this scene, which was very simple (too simple, I felt), and I began to see the truth shine through.

And I felt better about it.

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