'Gentle Reader, don’t quit now! Stay with me til the next chapter, Chapter Four. Something will happen, I promise.'
Or so the thoughts rolled around in my mind, as I lay alone in bed, half asleep. All this stuff about Jewel and Myron, Smones and Curtailer. And now there was more, the various comments and critiques from the readers of the first two chapters: "I need to know if any action is coming up!"; "Are you going to roll up your sleeves and get serious?"; "Is there any there there?". And so on. Being taken to task by my readers. Crap. But even Curtailer demanded to know, where’s the story?
I was in a hypnagogic state, that altered condition of consciousness just before sleep (not to be confused with its counterpart, the hypnapomic state, which occurs directly prior to waking).
My mind moved rapidly, with no particular focus, and in this hyper-aware creative state, new thoughts and unfamiliar feelings occurred in rapid succession, and possible scenes involving my characters appeared unbidden to my internal eye, like so many kernels of popcorn exploding in the pan.
What if readers associated the characters of Smones and Curtailer with a currently popular TV situation comedy about a writer and his agent, which I had seen once or twice? Would my creation be perceived as plagiaristic, even though I myself had only just now, while in this half-asleep dazed state, made the connection between my characters and those others? And what if my creation were, in fact, an unconscious expression of my internalized experience with those particular characters? If so, did I legitimately have the right to my story? And wasn’t this an example of the very point Smones himself was making, that we all wallow in a sea of signs and symbols, each of us cobbling together our own individual reality out of the stolen bits and pieces we salvage from the culture around us?
How, them, could I, or anyone, claim originality? Wasn’t Myron’s shameless parody of John Irving’s title, and his attempt to capitalize on the familiarity surrounding it, merely more of the same rag-picking on the cultural landfill?
But what of Smones’ proposal, that he and Curtailer tell stories to each other, and that this become the foundation for his novel? Or maybe he meant that he would write a fiction, a complete fabrication, based on an imagined storytelling between them, one which had never actually happened? This seemed a bit lame, as a literary device, and Smones’ proposal to Curtailer seemed ingenuous and out of character — would this be taken by the reader as Smones, the character, being simple-minded, or would it be attributed to Myron and his ineptitude as the author of Smones? Or would I, as the ultimate author of the entire Smones/Myron hierarchy, be held responsible…?
In other words, if an author writes insipid dialogue and puts it in the mouth of a character, is it the character who is flawed, or the author?
I desperately wanted my work to be well received; I wanted to be thought of as clever. Would I be blamed for the stupidity of my characters? But ultimately all art is a form of self-entertainment, so if it entertains you, the reader, as well, you’re invited to come along; if not, you can easily find another way to entertain yourself. Just be grateful I haven’t been floating basketballs in fish tanks and calling them art, as does one well-known contemporary so-called artist, who, by the way, is also famous for constructing metallic balloon dogs and casting effigies of Michael Jackson’s chimpanzee. Yes, by God, be thankful I’m not doing that…
And where would the story go from here? What were the next steps for Smones, for Curtailer, for Myron and Jewel? Surely, Myron would keep writing — he hasn’t given up in all these years. But why has he never published? Maybe he is unable to sustain an effort long enough to complete anything publishable. So there is no guarantee he will give us more of the Smones story; he might just tear off in some other direction and forget all about New York City and Smones. Maybe he’ll follow Curtailer to his country home next. Or maybe he’ll take off on a completely new tack, start in with flesh-eating zombies from outer space. Or the erotic life of vampires, a very popular subject, yes, Smones as a centuries-old blood sucker and seducer of beautiful women and handsome boys…?
And then there’s Jewel, so far merely a foil for Myron. Surely she has a life, some creative, productive enterprise worthy of description.
The faces of these characters, the scenes in which they might appear, flashed through my entranced consciousness. What did it mean that both sets of characters — Curtailer and Smones, Myron and Jewel — had been portrayed as pairs interacting; both seated at tables sharing a meal; both engaged in over-the-table dialogue?
Potential future scenes flickered before my internal eye, like rapidly cross-cut camera shots in a movie preview. I caught bald-headed Smones striding down Fifth Avenue, getting into a fistfight or shoving match on the sidewalk; Curtailer hailing a cab and unknowingly dragging and soiling the hem of his expensive overcoat outside the closed rear door of the yellow vehicle; Jewel and Myron turning out the light and making love, passionately or not, then getting up in the morning, washing, dressing, going to work; and after they’ve returned home, someone coming to their door and causing trouble…
So, Dear Reader, as Mitchell Smones would put it, "Hang in there, Buddy — Chapter Four is on the way."
[TO BE CONTINUED]