Saturday, December 27, 2014

Leaving The March

But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

I read George Eliot's Middlemarch for the first time shortly after I stopped working at the bar.  The paragraph above is my favorite piece of writing ever.  It is so beautiful and so kind and so perfectly phrased.  And it was in reading that paragraph, after having closed a chapter on my life, that I decided to write this book, even though it took me many more years to actually start writing it.

And today is the day I put it behind me.

Streeters, the bar I worked in throughout my 20's in the 90s, is the inspiration for the bar called The March, but the book called The March is a fairly faithful revisioning of Middlemarch.  The plot is lifted wholesale.  All my characters correlate directly to one in Middlemarch, save Bulstrode who correlates to two (he's both Eliot's Bulstrode and Featherstone) and Rosie who is not really Eliot's Rosamund.  As I wrote Rosie I fell a little in love with her and she ended up coming more from my own imagination than George Eliot's. Rosie is my favorite character.  Oh, Rosie, I'll miss you most of all!

I'll also say here since I know she's reading: Joelle, there's a lot of you in Mary. And since I know he's reading: Danno, Teddy's odiousness is inspired entirely by George Eliot.  There is none of you in him.    

I feel sad to leave all these people, whom I've lived with for a very long time. We've been together for years and years.  When I think of writing this book, I picture myself sitting on the floor by the pool at Senn High while a 5 year old Laney took swimming lessons; desperately trying to keep the laptop dry as I pecked out words and lived in a fictional past.

I picture myself scrounging out an outlet at Shedd Aquarium, so I could finish the last chapter for the first time by the Beluga whales.  I've always really liked those Beluga whales.

I picture myself sitting at a table at a Rogers Park diner, half-eaten grilled cheese beside my laptop, puzzling out some plot point while daring to imagine a life where this was what I did for a living (wrote books, not ate grilled cheese... although I suppose that'd be a pretty good career too).

I loved to write this book.

But, because it is I not Iggy who is the realest, I need to be honest: it's not great.  It has moments that are pretty good. There are paragraphs that hover around really good.  But it is not great.  It is only sort of good here and there.   I failed to hold myself up to the kind of rigorous honesty that you need to make something great.  I pulled punches that George Eliot would never have pulled.  And despite the years I spent writing it, I was lazy as fuck at several points.

And goddammit, I could never fucking figure out how to start this thing!

This doesn't make me sad, though.  Well, it makes me a little sad.  I would have liked to write something that people would read and discuss at book clubs.  I would have loved to have written something really good. But I didn't.

But I still loved to write this book.

I loved living in that world. I love Brooke and Rosie and Tre and Will.  And I'm glad I got to know them.  I loved needling away at sentences and taking long walks to try and figure out how to move the plot into the 20th century.  I loved imagining a Chicago bar in the 60s and describing the work I did when I learned how to work at a bar.

I loved to write this book.

So even if I don't think it's in the cards for me to make a living by writing stories, I can still write stories.  There is merit and there is joy in trying to tell a story even if you are not entirely successful in the telling.

It's time to put The March behind me and start a new story.  And I'll pop those stories up here as they come.  And maybe it won't even take me another 7 years.