The Job of the Novelist

The kid reached into the darkness and pulled the book from the closet. It was by an unknown French existentialist. It must be a translation, he thought. His confidence in it, thus, shaken, he began, nevertheless, to read:

“The job of a novelist,” it said, “is to show people to themselves.” OK, he thought, continuing. “We desire to clean up our act and sterilize our surroundings, imagining nirvana as some leafless scene.

“We build fences and walls and prisons.

“We become more desperate.

“We distinguish the busy, outside world from a clean vision of ourselves. 

“We lose the vision of what is true.

“We see, vaguely, that the world, blind fate, picks winners and losers from the hampered crowd of people and nations.” He kept reading there on the floor by the closest.

“The truth, as DFW once said, is closer to a fish in water. 

“Building barriers (what can I really protect?) is one more route to living in death.

“Walking dualities, then, lines drawn across the sand, like defender’s at Old Alamo, we look daggers at our other halves.

“Woe betides the land easing her peoples’ conscience of this duality. Once done, both sides imagining themselves pure and distinct, the same thing which happens to the Man, then, happens to the Land—disillusionment.

“So, get out and see it while it is still there, America, before history comes to your door.”

He put it down and rolled onto his side and his eyes were level with his shoes under the bed. Anything you like you have to try and do it yourself, he thought. Books make you feel a certain way (“feel some type-a-way“). And you want to go out and try and do the things you read. Music, too. It can get you so excited you’ll go and do just about anything you got all worked up about. Then, maybe, you figure ‘I should go the the source, that this inspiration and all is for the birds,’ he thought. He was lying on the carpet.

Maybe you get all sure about something and go and get yourself thrown in jail. Or worse, he thought. So, you figure, I’ll just do the thing itself. I’ll learn to make the music or write the book and get all the jazz out of it that way. You won’t be some kid who got in trouble over nothing.

Boy that got him going good. He threw the book in his bag and went out to catch the bus.

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