They—whoever they may be—say that truth is stranger than fiction. As a novelist and a lover of satire, I’ll go along with that. Because based on what recently transpired in Afghanistan and what I’ve recently experienced with my novel Slick! truth indeed can make us wonder, “How did that happen?”
As to Afghanistan, we know that an American soldier allegedly (just using the legal jargon in self defense) massacred 16 civilians—women and children. You could write a novel about an incident like that. But in many ways, nothing you create would be any more moving, angering and mind blowing than this tale as it unravels regarding the alleged killer’s deeds, motivations and background, which appears to include multiple combat tours in the Middle East, a head injury and marriage problems.
At the same time, nothing I wrote in Slick! including the march during which Moq’tari protestors chant, “Hoops yes! Bagels no!” could be more bizarre than the radio report of the Taliban, allegedly representing God and a higher civilization, referring to American soldiers as animals and calling for their heads to be chopped off. You can make this stuff up, but you don’t have to. A satirist just observes the world and lets loose.
As for me—hey, it’s my blog and I can self-promote all I want—a writer from Kirkus Reviews interviewed me last Sunday for a profile scheduled to appear in the April 15 issue. The publication, which has reviewed books since 1933 and calls itself “The World’s Toughest Book Critics,” gave Slick! a great review and awarded it a Star as a book of “remarkable merit”—their description, not mine. I checked out their site. Not many books get a Star, including those brought out by major publishing companies.
What I find gratifying is that I published Slick! independently—a euphemism for “I couldn’t get an agent let alone find a publisher.” So there’s stuff here for a novel. Writer writes book. Writer believes in book. Writer’s editor, wife and a few friends believe in book. No one else does. Except a major industry publication.
And then I get a call to appear on a local show, Mosaic (CBS-5, San Francisco) to talk about my non-fiction book, God’s Others: Non-Israelites Encounters With God in the Hebrew Bible. But maybe I’ll save that for next week.
Back to Slick! If all this was the plot in a popular novel, agents and editors would soon be calling. I’d be swamped with offers. They’d also want to publish my follow-up novel set in Central America. And they’d be salivating over the other novel I just completed, an entirely different book about death, cancer, Down syndrome, stand-up comedy and dogs. The usual stuff. And let’s not even talk about Hollywood! On the other hand, a more literary novel about my writing career might offer a different plot. Acclaimed work. No agent or publisher in sight. A man writes into his sunset years waiting discovered in vain. Move over, Vincent van Gogh.
Okay, I’m dramatizing. But truth writes itself every day in so many ways that often resemble fiction. And every human life really is a novel that crafts itself. I plan to keep turning the pages to see how it all comes out.
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