Literary Delusions

So there are a lot of us out here who live in this delusion that we have The Great American Novel (in capital letters, just like that) lurking somewhere in our subconscious, and all we have to do is somehow convince it to leave just a shadow, a corner of itself peeking out and we can trap it and become The Next Big Thing (also in impressive capitals.)

I have decided to delude myself no longer. After years of reading, since I was four, to be precise, I don’t believe that anything I have to say is particularly original. Nobody wants to hear the strictly autobiographical approach, which in the hands of an amateur such as myself is either stilted or trite, or what is worse, both. Nobody particularly wants to hear the far-fetched completely unbelievable approach either, with space aliens having tea with the recently crowned Queen of the United States who is secretly in love with a Canook. A little removed from reality maybe, but not all out. And see, having considered these options, along with several other, just as implausible, I have decided to demur to all of those with enough guts and self-confidence to watch their work be ripped to shreds by any number of snide, uppity and completely correct critics.

I am probably the only person in the universe who, when reading too many chick lit paperbacks, becomes convinced that she too can conquer the world and write a National Bestseller novel. I really get all worked up over fluffy fiction. Not because I think it’s so great, per se, but more because I think in the back of my head, as Arianna pursues Ethan, clueless that the much more sensitive and handsome Trevor desperately desires her attention, Hey, I could have written this! It’s not the greatness, the literary quality that attracts me, it’s the realization that other people have published their mediocre portrayal of a highly unlikely and romanticized plot-line.

I mean, there is a certain appeal to females (thus the label chick-lit) of the hero who swoops in and saves you, or the unlikely love-interest. My littlest sister, now a senior in high school, told me just today that she thinks that too much junk food literature screws up all of your perceptions of your life, especially about how boys think and approach situations. It gives you a skewed view of the inside of his head, and leads to you thinking that he really does spend all of his free moments tortured by the little flip of your hair when you look back over your shoulder as you walk away. He doesn’t.

He’s probably much more tortured by the amount of gas money he’s poured into his four-by-four in the last week, more disturbed by the odd smell that emanates from the week-old shrimp lo-mein in that paper container by the X-box, more anguished by the fact that someone else drank the last cold beer than he even considered being about your hair. He probably doesn’t even notice your hair that often, much less be “captivated by that faint flowery smell that drifts out” from your shiny locks. Boys don’t do “faint flowery smells.” I’m not really sure that their olfactory senses even register that kind of subtleties. I guess what I’m saying is that I really hate to get everyone all riled up and excited about the possibility of finding a sweet, sensitive Chad who cries when watching Serene September where that girl dies in the end, when in reality, any male that ridiculously touchy is probably not looking to cry onto the shoulder of a double X chromosome, if you know what I mean.

But I lose my own train of thought. What I mean is that for me, beside the normal female reaction of suddenly having my romantic expectations leap ten decibels louder than normal, my literary expectations jump noise levels as well. Well, they shouldn’t probably be called “literary expectations,” as I hardly place the average Love Awakens Swiftly novel on a par with great literature, of this language or any other. More that suddenly I see this as a loophole to becoming the Next Big Thing. Perhaps I don’t have to write anything great, anything truly worthy. Maybe I can get away with writing something addictive, something dumbed down and simplified, something purely wildly entertaining. Forget the research. Who needs depth of character and conflict? Eternal themes of life complicated by death, love gone awry due to selfishness, hope nearly extinguished by despair – they’re over-rated. As long as Crispen manages to convince Melany that he really does love her truly, madly, deeply – and more than his last week’s soul-mate.

And I could write that. But I’m starting to realize I won’t . . . because The Great American Novel is not going to be issued in trade paperback, with that hip, pen and ink willowy heroine on the cover, and I refuse to lower my standards. If I ever do publish a novel, it will be The Great American Novel. Period.

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