These days I am concentrating on a work in progress—an experimental novel with images. It’s long and complex: it has photographs, footnotes, multiple columns, graphs, charts, equations, and sheet music.
I have been working on it more or less every day since 2008. It’s divided into five volumes. Book 3, Weak in Comparison to Dreams, is published by Unnamed Press. Order from Amazon here. It’s a freestanding novel, so there is no need to know anything about the other four books.
(If you came to this site looking for art history, theory, and criticism: there is no visual art in these five books, sorry. I’ve written a pamphlet on why someone in the humanities might want to try writing “creatively” or experimentally, outside their discipline. It’s free on Academia. There are also two websites with lots of material — about a book’s worth in each — on these subjects: “What is Interesting Writing in Art History?” and “Writing with Images.“)
If you have any comments or questions about what’s in the novel or what’s on this page, please feel free to write. The remaining four volumes have no publisher yet, so I am interested in everyone’s ideas.
Here are some pages that may help as study guides for Weak in Comparison to Dreams. These are all documents I’m using to write. They are live: Google updates them every five minutes. A couple are hard to read on this page. You can see them in full here (note tabs at the bottom).
First, here is a timeline of the characters in all five books. This is a large spreadsheet, which prints out at about two by three feet. Weak in Comparison to Dreams only has a half-dozen of these characters.
Here is chart of themes in Weak in Comparison to Dreams. The narrator dreams of forest fires. At first they’re far away, but as the book goes on they get closer, until they surround him. Meanwhile, in his waking life, he is tortured by unpleasant experiences of animals suffering in zoos, and by the scientific readings that supposedly explain them—and by two unusual assistants, Vipesh and Viperine (V&V).
A chart showing which parts of the book represent forms of sanity, and which show forms of irrationality or insanity.
A table showing the symbols I used to help organize the leading concepts. This is a “mathesis” or “pasigraphy”; Joyce, for example, did something like this in Finnegans Wake. It helps to manage unwieldy ideas.
A full description of the themes in each of the five books. Click on “Book 3” to go the pages on Weak in Comparison to Dreams. (I notice bookmark links work faster in embedded pages than on Google Drive. I wonder why that is?)
A chart of the relation between the story and the way it’s told (narration versus fabula).
A list of the characters in all five novels, along with pictures of the places they live. There is also a Google map of most of the places mentioned in the book.
A spreadsheet of all five books, with a brief summary of each one.
A more detailed look at the contents of all five volumes. I use this to keep track of references to characters, composers, places, and events.
A set of tables I made to estimate how many hours, days, and years I’ve worked, and how many hours I’ve spent, on average, on each page. I think a number of writers exaggerate the total number of hours that they spend writing. Even after fifteen years I estimate the total hours I’ve spent at less than 12,000.
A map of the psychology of the main character. As the novel progresses, he loses his remaining memories of his childhood (the black line). At the same time, he becomes a stranger to himself, culminating in Book 4, which is dissociative (red line). The green line visualizes how much access we have to his inner life: at first, it’s unlimited; but in other books it is unmeasurable, absent, or undependable.
And finally, word and page counts for all five volumes, and the length of the whole thing.
As always, comments and questions on any of this are welcome.