Not quite of this world

Have you read The Intuitionist? It’s a novel by Colson Whitehead about elevator inspectors in a great city that might be New York. The protagonist is an inspector of the “intuitionist” school. She rides the elevators and gets an intuitive sense about their mechanical worthiness. Contrasted with this group is the “empiricist” school of inspectors who examine bolts and technical matters. The novel is, at heart, about racial progress but I like it for more than just that.

How about Shadow of the Wind? Have you read that novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon? Set in Barcelona during the Franco dictatorship, the story revolves around a library of forgotten books protected by people who are initiated to the role. It specifically involves a mysterious man whose mission is to destroy every copy of every book written by a certain man. (A prequel comes out next year. I can hardly wait!)

I love these novels and others like them because they portray a world that is almost the one we live it. You might call them speculative fiction, but only in the broadest sense. Or you could say they are magical realism, but even that isn’t quite right. I think they are a class in themselves, and I wish there were more of them (as there no doubt are).

I bring this up because the novel I am now working on — The Sleep of Reason — probably would fit into this class. I’ve said before that it is something like a horror novel, but there is no supernatural component. And I’ve suggested that it might be a suspense novel, but even that isn’t quite right. There is a weirdness about it that takes the story just outside of this world. Nothing that happens in it could not also happen in our world, yet none of it would happen in our world.

I completed the second chapter recently. The first chapter establishes the “weirdness,” and the second does the set up for the story that will follow. This has been slow, difficult work because so much foreshadowing and other groundwork must be done. (You’ll recall that this was what I had the most trouble with when writing Finnegans Afoot.) I know where I want the story to go, and I most certainly know how I want it to end, but I suspect I’ll be revisiting chapter two in the months to come as specifics in the story line appear and I must go back to prepare the way for them. I’m really enjoying working on this novel.

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