Sunday, September 21, 2008

So Many Book Ideas, I'll Never Be Able to Write Them All

In the past week, I have had ideas for two novels, one of which is more developed than the other. But they are still two novels, both of which have the potential of not sucking, which is my major qualification for following up an idea. My current literary project, now titled Laughing Lovers, is on page 185 as of this writing. And I've been working on it for ten months. I estimate it'll probably take me another year to finish, since I'm working on a doctorate now. And when I finish it, I plan to try to get it published with a decent company as well, and do all this while completing my doctorate before my university funding runs out after four years in the program.

So the fact that I keep having other ideas that I simply don't have the time to work on is encouraging for the state of my creative faculties, but frustrating in that many of them will likely get no farther than one or two page outlines. In all fairness, I've managed to get more work done on LL since I moved to Hamilton than I thought I would. But for the next couple of years, my time is only going to be more squeezed, not less.

The most developed new idea I had this week was inspired by David Foster Wallace's death. He was the writer of Infinite Jest, a book I read when I was 17 years old and amazingly pretentious. It was over 1,000 pages long, and was hideously complex, but also beautiful and quite sorrowful in its hilarity. I suppose that its tone, if not its style has been quite influential on my own writing. Looking through the manuscript of LL as it stands now, humour seems to alternate with sorrow, and sometimes occur at the same time. I'm not near the skill of Wallace, but that's a goal and a model for me.

I was quite shocked when I discovered that he killed himself two Fridays ago. Reading the obituaries and salutes to him and his work have been enlightening and thought-provoking. The Guardian, I think, had the best such tribute. One thing I learned was that he had taught a creative writing class for the past few years at Pomona College in California. He died on September 12, so if the class hadn't started, then it was about to. And I wondered what his students would have thought, to have gotten only a glimpse of this man before he snatched himself away. Whether Wallace was even teaching this term didn't even matter. The point was this brief connection that was abruptly severed. That relationship is the centrepiece of the story.

The second idea I had this week was a random idea that jumped into my thoughts as I was talking about the mass cultural phenomenon of western humanities graduates to finish their B.A.s and, for want of a better salary in their homes, move to east Asia to teach English. I know several people who are currently or have been working in different cities in South Korea, and a couple of folks who work in China. One of my friends who teaches in China looks set to live there permanently.

I imagine that within a generation or so, most major cities in China and South Korea will have neighbourhoods called Little America with English signs and Western-style fast food restaurants, white and biracial neighbourhoods populated by North American English teachers, their families, and their descendants. Chinese and Korean people will feel like slumming it some nights, and take the bus down to Little America to eat hamburgers, Italian-style pasta, and food with forks.

Also, if any of you could leave a comment on the blog itself or on my facebook page about whether you think any of my prospective titles sound stupid, I'd really appreciate it. I just don't think I'm very good at coming up with titles. They all seem a bit too corny. So the following are up for your consideration: 1. Laughing Lovers; 2. Poor Yorick. The first is my university and politics in Newfoundland story, and the second is my salute to Wallace, which is currently just in outline form, and likely will be for some time.

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