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Trail: novelist



by TimRogers

At age twenty-three, a young man gets the idea to become a novelist. By age twenty-four, he writes a novel. He hides the novel from everyone, even himself.
Halfway through his twenty-fourth year, without looking at the novel, he thinks, “There’s not a murder in my novel. Why isn’t there a murder?” So he thinks and thinks, and eventually decides that a murder wouldn’t be right for his novel. Without a murder, however, the novel would not be an accurate portrayal of this real world in which murders occur. So to be fair to reality, the novelist creates a scene where the protagonist is reading a newspaper at his kitchen table one morning while listening to the radio. He’s reading a story about a baseball game when the news report about the murder reaches his ears. The protagonist, also the story’s narrator, makes a comment on how two kinds of news can happen at the same time.

One-twelfth into his twenty-fifth year, the novelist thinks about the comment he made concerning baseball games and murders. He’s now old enough to not see the point. Furthermore, the thought has just occurred to him that his novel lacks a sex scene. While the protagonist does indeed have a love interest, and while they do indeed have sex at some point, it’s mentioned only in passing. The novelist had thought himself classical, traditional, and tasteful when he mentioned that scene only in passing. He now wishes to flesh that scene out with explicit grace befitting the common fiction vogue. He adds a sweaty sex scene. He then defamiliarizes the scene by making a radio play throughout. In one draft of the scene, italicized lines from a radio broadcast break up the descriptive passages. In the version that is finally published, so as to eliminate italics, which are slipping in popularity, the narrator makes a quick mention of the radio broadcast. The radio broadcast is about a homeless man who was murdered in a park. The narrator then makes some vague wonderment about the difference between the murder of a homeless man in a park and the act of sex between lovers. The narrator comes to no conclusion. Neither does the novelist. Perhaps because of this vagueness or because of something contrary to it, the novel goes on to win numerous prizes, sell millions of copies in thirty-seven languages, and bring its novelist fame.
With each accolade his novel receives, the novelist realizes again that not knowing his material is more important than knowing it. He hides himself from the world and writes more books, filling them with things that never happened to him.

At age thirty, the novelist looks back at his first novel, and thinks, “The woman who inspired the narrator’s lover told me I needed to find a job, and gain ‘life experience.’ She slighted me for believing in my book.”
At age fifty, the novelist looks back at his first novel, and thinks, “The girl who inspired the narrator’s lover is now dead.”

At age fifty-four, the novelist looks at all of his novels, and thinks, “These are full of things I have never done.” He is not, however, filled with the desire to do any of those things.
“What chances remain for me,” he wonders, at sixty, “to have sex with a pretty young girl while listening to a radio report about a murder of a homeless man?”

At age eighty, none of this matters to him. He is given a great prize, and he accepts it with a grace befitting a character in an old fiction.

At age eighty-one, quiet and alone, he thinks, “I’m a liar. I’m a lie. My novel has become the hero of a story with my name.” He understands his name is not important. He knows no words are important. He is warm, he is not in pain, he is at home, and he is not at peace. He breathes, and then he dies.