With an Unquiet Darkly

I’ve been working my story, “Milk Like a Melted Ghost,” into a novel. It’s been kind of hard, because I’m not really feeling writing right now. I’m in a slump, or something. Still it seems to be coming along. It’s much different than my other fiction, though, with twisted syntax, a language shifted, a more poeticized prose, so I think that’s a fun thing for me to do. J.A. Tyler said he thinks it’s the best thing I've written yet. Big thanks, J...

I’ve been trying to send novels places more. Today, I sent a novella I just finished called The Quarantine Ceremony to Melville House. More than likely, nothing. I sent The Immortals Act Their Age to Black Lawrence and Graywolf. More than likely, nothing. I sent Lepers and Mannequins to Replacement Press, Dalkey Archive, Dzanc. More than likely... Soft Skull rejected it. Melville House and Publishing Genius also rejected it, though both had very nice and encouragingly long responses about it, so I very much appreciate Susan Culver’s and Adam Robinson’s time and kindness.

I’ve got this really good query letter written for Lepers and Mannequins, I think, describing the novel, and I sometimes think it’s better than the novel itself. Maybe that’s good, though, to hook editors, or something. It’s all like:

Lepers and Mannequins is about a leper colony warring with a tribe of mannequins over spare parts they need to put themselves back together. It is a humorously sad and absurdist allegory packed with socio-political subtext, not only about the human condition but what humans so conditioned are willing to sacrifice in exchange for what they believe they value most.

The novel’s two protagonists, Jaundice (a female mannequin) and Quall (a male leper), are in love in the midst of this war, recalling Romeo and Juliet. They both face the task of coming to terms not only with aggression from their friends and family toward the opposing side in the wake of a coming leper attack on the mannequins, but with their doubt in one another, ultimately mirroring doubt in themselves.

Written in sparse sentences, each its own paragraph, the novel attempts to show, in often humorous ways, how disconnected people are from each other because of underlying issues like personal and cultural identity, love, sex, dominance and ownership, but especially from themselves, both figuratively (as Jaundice narrates the novel in third person, occasionally slipping into first person to show that even she is detaching herself from the narrative, yet trying to come to terms with it) and literally (with lepers losing limbs all over, often due, despite their disease, to their own devices and incompetence).

Through magical realism, satire and metaphor, the novel seeks to uncover how humans tend to objectify other humans for their own purposes, including women, but mostly just people they don’t know or understand. In this latter sense, the novel also deals with the very human concern of war, and the possession of finite natural resources (in the novel, those resources being spare parts/limbs), and how humans on any side of any conflict must, by necessity, project the enemy as always plastic, two-dimensional, mannequin-like, because, if those fighting actually thought of the enemy as human, it would be harder to follow through with their actions. The fact that humans in the novel rebuild themselves using mannequin parts shows how, through striving at any cost to maintain their humanity and their identity, they ultimately lose it. I feel this is the mannequin metaphor, and suggests the mannequins in the novel were themselves once human...


Or something. It's way too long, maybe.

Otherwise, I haven’t been submitting much. I spend most of my time staring at the computer screen, refreshing my email, waiting for word from various journals or presses I’ve not heard back from. There’s probably less than I think there are. I stopped keeping track long ago of where I submit things. I’ve never used Duotrope. I used to just write submissions down in notebooks and cross them off when I got rejected, or circled them and drew smiley faces next to them if they were accepted.

I’ve been listening to The Beatles a lot. Sometimes I get all their songs stuck in my head at once. I’ve been listening to Debussy and Respighi lots, too...

Here’s a poem I wrote:

With an Unquiet Darkly You Answer My Smile

With an unquiet darkly you answer my smile, a child of our withered leaves, startled and lapsing through the forest to be afraid of.

As to have felt was a sense and shadow fading, to fall off the inevitable and to your breathing, to all the sound of your hands, distant view of your silence, your voice and aftermath, criterion of presence, your feel toward.

Every light of that voice, a child—as if your mind does not depend on it.

3 comments:

Mel Bosworth said...

great poem, eric. and keep your head up. you're being proactive. and sitting in the chair in front of the computer counts as writing even if you're not writing. sitting there thinking about writing counts as writing, or, if not actually "writing," "working." Keep working, eric. All the good things will come.

J. Michael Wahlgren said...

good luck with your submissions.

Eric Beeny said...

Thanks, Mel. You're absolutely right...

Thanks, J...