I was reading about viruses today while I had little work to do. I was killing time but learning things, which left me contented. My reading led me to peruse a rather detailed description of how the adenovirus reproduces after it has entered a cell in your body. Perhaps the virus actually reproduces by the random chances of motion and the laws of thermodynamics, but the description I read, as a product of the human mind, saw that process as occurring in stages that seemed like a logical progression. I won’t burden this blog by detailing them, but I want to consider for a moment the idea of seeing logic in viral reproduction.
As I was reading, it seemed to me that there were three stages in the process, and they made so much sense that it surprised me. I can see two possible ways to pursue this line of thinking: (1) The human mind works in terms of logic—sort of, not that often, and not very well, but still… So, because a human being wrote the description I read, they applied a human view of reality and wrote about the process as if it involved logic and discrete stages just because that’s how we see the world. It made sense to me. (2) Or perhaps there really is logic in the reproduction of a virus, which leads to some profound questions, such as where that logic comes from. Presumably the virus itself did not think about this. It may fit your religious convictions to say that God did it, in which case case I would ask you “Why does God use this beautiful logic to give us diseases?”
Me myself, though, as I read, I asked a stupid question: “Why does the virus do this?” It’s the same question I ask about human beings: “Why are we doing this? Why are we here?”
For me it’s almost the same question, whether I apply it to people or viruses, though viruses are both less offensive and less sublime (viruses did not develop the atom bomb or write Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony). But this question, as pointless as it may be, at least in terms of getting an answer, is what I write about. All of my writing is really stumbling about in the darkness, perplexed, sometimes light with delight, sometimes dark with despair, but ultimately everything I write, in one way or another, is asking “What are we doing here?”
And so it goes on because I have to do this. I’ve now finished Benedict and Miramar, and this weekend I’ll begin contacting literary agents. No doubt in a later blog I will tell you about that big adventure. But I’ve also moved on. For weeks now I’ve been slowly working on the next novel, writing some bits, making notes, thinking of it frequently, like yesterday when I sat on the freeway not moving for a half hour. But that was OK. I was cool. I was being a Buddhist.
So far the title of the next book is Dance in the Fire, and the lead character is a 17-year-old girl named Leola Summer Daye, but I’m going to write in somewhat distant third person, giving me the freedom to move from character to character, to get different points of view. With Benedict and Miramar, the narration is also in third person, but it stays very close to Benedict always. In the next book I’ll move back and move around.
Leola’s sister is Dacia, who is 8 or 10, somewhere in there, an eccentric little girl who is a prodigy on the violin. They will be living with their aunt Olivia. What I’ll do is have Leola and Dacia reverse the transition I made a few months ago, so that they begin in Washington, DC, and move to Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, exactly the opposite of what I’ve just done. Their mother will be in a mental hospital and their father has died in Afghanistan, though as it happens, Leola can still talk to him. Her father will tell her stories from Hindu mythology (specifically about Shiva and his two sons), and those stories will somehow connect with stories about three American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Two other major characters will be Liam, a little boy in some strange and unpleasant situation, not yet entirely worked out, and Jethro Waters, a farmer who runs an organic farm just outside of the town of State College.
I’ve only barely gotten started, and there’s a lot to think about. I’m also thinking of applying a writing technique that was inspired from reading Les Miserables, but no need to get into that now. I’m in no hurry. I plan to take my time and enjoy writing this. Anyhow, I have three novels now that need selling.
So I need to find a literary agent. People are waiting to read Benedict and Miramar. Most people don’t know that yet, but they’re waiting. Yes they are.