Serpent Blog

The Birth of a Chapter, the Death of a Book. 
The letters saved me. Because letters always do. Otherwise, you throw your voice out into the universe like a note in a wine bottle and most of the time no one ever hears you. Just like now. This silly blog. Itís a message in a bottle. And thatís fine. In fact itís essential, because itís hope. All writing is a form of hope, or should be I think. And when I was writing Serpent Box I had such little hope. The glimmer I had came from these letters I would write to my friend A., who did what all writers should do for each other, namely, listen...

Wednesday, February 6, 2002
Higher Grounds Cafť, San Francisco


There is a state of mind I strive for, but which I cannot turn on and off at will, and this is a deep, deep sadness, a rosy melancholy that keeps me on the verge of tears. This is where I want to be when I am writing and God only knows what triggers it but today it is here, it is here, it is here. Itís a poetry kind of feeling, a glorious blue mood that calls to mind a steady rain and the sounds of the wind and sea. The key is not to think about it but to let it flow and here I am thinking when I should be writing, so let me go and do that and I will report back to how it all went. It is two minutes before nine now, and Iím nursing this first cup of coffee Ė and it is coffee, straight coffee. Here I goÖ.


It is noon now. I wrote six hand-written pages in my notebook. This is a good day. But I did not finish the chapter as I had wished. I really wanted to finish because it is an exciting chapter where Baxter Dawes takes Magdalena Flint into an Indian cave to find a special snake. Itís very Tom Sawyer-ish. I really like all the things that are happening outside the main story-line. I genuinely like Baxter Dawes, he is developing into someone I truly care about. Which is too bad, because he may have to pay the ultimate price. For that, he may have to die.


Thursday, February 7, 2002
Higher Grounds Cafť, San Francisco


Today I will finish chapter 31, and I must do this because the following chapter is beginning of the end. Meaning, things will start to happen now that will lead to resolution (resolution of what?) and Jacob will blossom (blossom into what?) and the answers to all the questions I have raised will be answered (but what questions have I raised?).

Many times, when I get sidetracked, possibilities reveal themselves. So I do not allow myself to get too concerned when I take detours away from the plot (as I have done this entire week). But I still have much trouble with the truth. I still do not know what the truth is in relation to this story, and maybe Andrew, I do not even know what the truth is as it pertains to myself and the world in general. But this is far too deep and too much of a Ďtherapistísí moment to get into here. But I will tell you this, I will tell you about something I felt yesterday, and maybe you will understand my state of mind.

I went to a discount bookstore. But it was not even a bookstore, it was a temporary bookstore. Some empty retail location leased out to some book distributor trying to dump overstock. Anyway, this was a big, big mistake. I would sooner have gone into a city morgue the day after a deadly fire. For most of what I saw there was failure. Novels that did not sell. Novels that were perhaps well written but poorly titled, or poorly jacketed, or poorly marketed, or ill-timed Ė and surely there were many which were in fact poorly written, but it did not matter why they were there. They were dead. They were corpses, and there were so many, so many books, so many novels, so manyÖand among them, were six copies of Kathy Hepinstallís Absence of Nectar. Now let me tell you Andrew, it was as if I had stumbled upon her nude and murdered body in a cornfield. I am not exaggerating, this is not me trying to be dramatic to make a point. My heart sunk, my eyes tingled at the corners and my body made every preparation it could to sob. I bought one Andrew, I bought one for six dollars. I wanted to buy them all. And I flipped open the dust jacket, and I read the acknowledgments and looked at her picture and my hopes and dreams came crashing down like the World Trade Center tower number two.

Ah Jesus, this canít be good for me. This is no way to start the day. Why am I doing this? Maybe itís so that I can be humbled again, and be warned. And then, among the stacks I found a hard-copy of All the Pretty Horses, and I read the first paragraph, and by God I did weep Andrew, I wept at the simple genius of it, I wept at the truth of it, at the fact that what McCarthy says is not thought of and constructed, but felt, it comes from the dark place and opens the trap door beneath the readerís feet ďÖ.this is not sleep, this is not sleep.Ē

And so we go on.


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