An Unexpected Masterpiece

As National Novel Writing Month continues on, the next in our series about the novels that we started writing but, for whatever reason, never finished.

The novel I never wrote is spotless. Every sentence is a sickening surprise. The plot coils round you like a python. Your eyes water badly at the humanist climax. You do not trust this response.

It is three hundred and twenty-nine pages long. It is at least fifty-four percent true and took six days to write. Seventeen people conspired against it, and each died under odd circumstances.

The text is political but not polemic, learned but not dense. It is charged with alarming ambiguity and wrought with alarming clarity. Portions all but beg to be carefully read aloud, alone or as foreplay.

There are descriptive passages with the power to kill a small horse. The dialogue’s electricity could power Switzerland for weeks. Supporting characters were bought and licensed by Viacom Inc.

An excerpt appeared in The Paris Review. An amusing controversy attended publication, bloomed into industry scandal, and finally engulfed the literate globe in archly hot opinions.

The following adjectives were applied by reviewers, pro and amateur: disastrous, dialectic, decadent, startling, cruel, stark, indecent, far-fetched, morbid, timely, timeless, hollow, trashy, suicidal, correct.

The hardcover is embossed, its paper deckle-edged. The softcover is improbably small—fits in a jacket pocket. My wife picked the title, my mistress the font. Neither speaks to me now.

The sex is an unspeakably genuine sequence of aperçus, flowing from a properly curious psyche. Regardless, it is not widely selected for book clubs. The dedication contains a mysterious set of initials.

Translations are available in German, Japanese and Spanish. In France, it’s been adapted into rhyming verse. A Brazilian choreographer has staged the ballet for an empty house.

While included on several shortlists, no jury agreed to saddle it with something so tawdry as an award. The Nobel Prize Committee remarked that its towering achievement would dwarf the highest praise.

At least one heavily echoed bon mot caught on as slang in the wider world, where it is often malapropised. Another writer rankled at what he took to be (and what surely was) an attack on his silver reputation.

Royalties are distributed throughout Hollywood to permanently obstruct a film. The audiobook is said to alleviate arthritis pain. Libraries find that they cannot hold on to their copies.

A pulverized edition was found at the site of a recent asteroid impact. Birds wouldn’t use the shreds for their nests. The opening is temptation itself. The ending is a bit of a shock.

The idea arrived from what seemed a second mind, cold and all but insensate. Given that this numinous phantom has nearly approximated life, the rest of us lack any excuse.



Previously in series: My Unrealizable Postmodern Novel


Miles Klee is the author of Ivyland.