Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In Which I Begin Identifying the Main Books and Films I Have Eaten In Order to Create JIHAD COMIX

"It's simple: You just take something and do something to it, and then do something else to it. Keep doing this and pretty soon you've got something." -- Jasper Johns

Welcome. I am now two months (all of September, all of October) away from my commitment to punch out 1667 daily words -- good, bad, or undercooked -- on my embarrassingly over-researched novel JIHAD COMIX. The goal is to finish it in 30 days as part of NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH. I will be chronicling my efforts here. (The blog posts are a good break from writing.) 

Today I'll begin looking at some of the books and movies this book has been chewing, swallowing, and digesting as it spreads its way along my Plot Planner.  This is a tool from Martha Alderson's wonderful book THE PLOT WHISPERER. I guess I talk and write too much about Alderson's work, but I really can't thank her enough for sharing the tool that actually pointed this long-suffering book of mine in the right direction. Here is my Plot Planner in its current state, thumbtacked to the wall abutting my messy desk:

Anyway. Having acknowledged Alderson, I'll move on to acknowledging Lewis Carroll's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by which I really mean three volumes: that book, its sequel, and the astonishing THE ANNOTATED ALICE, a massive text-and-commentary affair assembled by Martin Gardner that stopped me in my tracks the first time I encountered it in the early Seventies. I must have been about twelve when it began seducing me. 

By that point I had already read both ALICE books out loud to my brother Joreth and sister Cassandra during a cross-country drive from Oregon (where we had just marked my Aunt Tina's passing) to Tennessee (where we believed, wrongly, that there was a commune waiting to welcome us with open arms). My point here is a) that the Carroll books -- obviously -- worked for us as children's literature, and b) that I thought I knew the books pretty well. Yet when I encountered the Gardner book a couple of years later -- an oversized affair that eruditely explained all of Carroll's math references, theological jokes, and so on -- something new opened up. All kinds of lights switched "ON" inside my brain, illuminating adult intent, adult observation, and the process of one voice commenting on, even building a book around, another voice. Who knew such a book was possible? What in the world had Carroll really been up to? What was GARDNER really up to? THE ANNOTATED ALICE was a major early obsession for me.

It also planted a seed about footnotes, which figure prominently in JIHAD COMIX. This was not the first such seed, though. I'll tell you about that first seed tomorrow, InshaAllah.