Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Novel Like a Good Album

With both of them I'm trying to get to a level where various elements are, at first glance, disconnected at a surface level, but in reality are deeply interconnected via the themes set down (consciously and otherwise),  And by interconnected, I mean interconnected to such a degree that the reader wants to come back and repeat the emotional journey. Like playing a good album again.

Consider THE WHITE ALBUM's running themes of multiformity, violence, sexuality, chaos vs. order, and childhood. I'm not saying anyone in the band set these ideas up ahead of time consciously, and who cares whether or not they did. I'm saying they're there, and they help to make this seemingly chaotic assemblage appealing and magnetic. As a listener, when you encounter these ideas, when they pop up subtly again and again, in a certain order, you end up wanting to go back and take that journey again. In the order the album prescribes. Those themes are part of the reason why.

Or consider BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER. (Yes, I'm a Boomer, deal with it.) Did you ever wonder why that album hangs together as well as it does? Could it have something to do with the fact that almost every song has something to do with a farewell?

Of course, as a writer of fiction, you still need a protagonist, a turning point, an objective, all of that. You still need a climax, and you still need a lesson learned. An album doesn't need those things. But maybe one difference between a novel you read once and a novel you want to read again and again can be the reader's assembly of its seemingly disparate, sequential "tracks" into a coherent whole. This kind of book makes the reader a kind of collaborator.