I just finished my nonfiction book 'American Masters'.
‘American Masters’ (89,000 words) is a book for those who love books. It is a popular history of American literature from its beginning in our colonial period (Cotton Mather and Benjamin Franklin), through our most recent Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. It is written in a sweeping narrative style (with a hidden first person narrator), drawing from the lives of the authors, their stories, their work, and interesting anecdotes from their own experiences. (All properly researched and referenced). Did you know, for instance, that at age six Flannery O’Connor taught a chicken to walk backward. It was filmed by the Pathé News and was shown across the country. Little Mary O’Connor was on film helping with her chicken. She claimed that everything else in her life was anti-climactic. This is only one of the many such stories that have turned up in the research of this book. (And it has been just a plain ol’ hoot to write, if you’ll allow me that levity).
The study of literature has somehow become divided up by particular authors or poets, or various ‘movements’, or by their individual works. Very little has been done to mine the vast interconnectedness of the literary tradition from its earliest days until the present. Yet, not surprisingly, these authors knew each other, or had read each other, or had written reviews about each other, or had made comments about each other, and nothing was ever written in a vacuum as it sometimes appears to us today. Readers, (myself included), have approached the whole affair of reading our masters as a hit and miss matter, which seems to be more often miss than hit.
‘American Masters’ has a strong narrative insistence which does not sacrifice itself by use of obvious fictional techniques. Rather, it is written on several levels, giving it a deep tidal flow that is not fully appreciated by only a surface reading. Beyond the simple chronological reading there is a deeper symbolic level; and a deeper still mythic historicity of dreams, fears, imaginings; and a deeper still labyrinthine level of games, puzzles, codes, word play, and so on. (Which could be appreciated by the likes of Nabokov.)
You will find that my serial novel 'Double Portrait' will contain many of the same devices, as well as being a good read. I'll let you know. Soon. Very soon.