The Next Big Thing
I’m grateful to Jennifer K. Dick for inviting me to participate in this ongoing blog chain that’s connecting writers all over the world. I’m grateful she felt my new book was worth talking about, and I’m grateful she encouraged me to speak about it a bit here.
I’d also like to officially recognize James Belflower, Maxine Chernoff, and Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino, who took the time and put forth a significant amount of effort to say kind, thoughtful things about my book. Thank you; I am in your debt.
Since I’m a bit detail-oriented, and the theme of my blog happens to be questions, I found myself sending her an ever-lengthening thread of emails with different questions about how I should approach the project (when I should post, how many people to tag, what my own blog space needed to be like, etc.). I assumed two things: first, that the project was something new that had just started sometime this year and, second, that she was therefore closer to the source of this project in a very concrete way. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Where did all this start?
One of the fun aspects of a project like this is that it takes shape on the internet. Thus, it can (at least theoretically) be researched in much the same way as any other genealogy. Jen Dick is my mother as far as The Next Big Thing is concerned. Who was her mother, and mother before that? All one need do is follow the links.
A google search of “the next big thing blog” yielded 359,000,000 results.
I traced my own lineage back to the beginning of October, whereupon the trail went a little cold, I got a little overwhelmed, or a little bored, or all of the above. But I rallied a bit do some relatively simple math. Assuming that The Next Big Thing started at the beginning of October, 2012 and also assuming that each participant successfully tagged three “children” to represent the next generation, which I think is a conservative estimate, then the numbers look something like this:
Number of new participants this week: 5,373,459
Total participants thus far: 8,060,183
Number of participants next week: 16,120,377
How many poets are there in the world?
What is/was the working title of the book?
The book has always been titled Ithaca, after the main character, out of respect for James Joyce’s Ulysses and Homer’s The Odyssey, which represent a fair portion of the lineage of this book. Ithaca seemed like a good choice to emphasize the layers of signification I’m working with, or trying to—a little more ambiguous than Milly, which would have been my second choice. A few people have asked, and I didn’t intend for a reference to Ithaca, NY intentionally, but I’m content with it coming along for the ride.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
While reading Ulysses I was overcome by a desire to excavate a tiny fraction of the incomprehensibly massive aggregation of poetry that’s embedded in that book; and then to sequence that excavation in a coherent way such that it forms a semblance of a fresh, contemporary narrative. Reading Borges around the same time provided me with a conceptual framework from which to start.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
That’s a fairly complicated question, since, in my mind, there would need to be four performers for the part of Ithaca alone… I wouldn’t want to just pick one and CGI her through life. So, that said, I think the film would most likely start with ultrasound footage of someone with natural ability and presence. The good news in that instance is that a fetus any gender or race would be usable as long as they are active, charismatic, not camera shy, and shot from the right angle. The first fragment of the book would most likely be filmed in the style of Terrence Malick, with strong imagery and a lyrical voiceover of the father figure, probably Werner Herzog because I can’t get enough of listening to him talk.
In the second fragment Ithaca could be played by a relative unknown or up-and-comer. Ideally, the choice would be capable of a lot of depth and feeling, such as Ivana Baquero in Pan’s Labyrinth.
The third fragment, Courtship, would be fun to cast. The two characters would need to have some chemistry, with the male lead being simultaneously sympathetic and a bit of a sociopath. I see Jessica Chastain (The Debt) and John Cusack (High Fidelity) doing good work here.
The last part of the book would be a slam-dunk: Maggie Smith all the way to the finish.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
What if a writer dreamed a daughter, a country, or a religion into existence, until night by night a life circled, and the writer gave that peculiar life a spine, the curves of whose vertebrae were carved from the language of Ulysses?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It took me approximately three months to create the original draft of the manuscript. That’s a bit misleading, however, insofar as the rewriting/editing process continued for another three and a half years after that before the book actually headed for publication.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was fascinated by the two stories that I quote in the book’s epigram, Ulysses and The Circular Ruins. I’ve always loved that Joyce created an epic novel from a single day, and that it became a classic. I wondered if the language therein might also hold the thread of an entire life, as well—a life in a day, if you will—and took my cues from Borges to follow that thread and dream that life into existence, piece by piece. Borges’ larger body of work also inspired me to consider the layers and parallels that manifest between different worlds… in this case between personal, political, and religious narratives.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I also designed the cover for the book, basing it around a photograph I took while studying in Prague.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s clear that this interview project, wherever it started, began with writers who were primarily working in prose. As far as I can tell, poets rarely get to/have to deal with agents. So, the answer is neither—my publisher, BlazeVOX as embodied by Geoffrey Gatza (who very kindly published my first book, Under the Sky They Lit Cities, as well), is handling the publishing, marketing, and details directly. The book is available from BlazeVOX directly as well as SPD, amazon, and various local bookstores.
Or you could contact me about securing a copy for review…
Who is(are) the NEXT Next Big Thing(s)?