Well, OK: "Great"? I know, I know: my readers, the novel's readers, will be the judge of that, I hear you saying.
But, for me, it had to be that particular "aspirational adjective" because, in my generation of writers, we all saw ourselves writing The Great American Novel. Or trying, up until our last breath, to commit it to paper.
One of us, however, did not imagine it would take her quite this long to produce the thing, if indeed "the thing" it is.
Over a decade ago (late, even then), I set out to write "a" novel, several obvious Novel Seeds having flown into and sunk deep roots in, willy-nilly, the little plot of earth where I grow my-things-made-of-words. I didn't expect, nor ask for, nor anticipate, nor really know what to do with these seeds at first but, oh, yes, I recognized them as seeds. Big hot honking ones. Sequoias.
And I began hoarding little glinting pieces of verbiage with which to fertilize and ornament them once they sent up sprouts: little fragments of character and dialogue and received wisdom -- literally bits and pieces scribbled down on napkins and torn-off corners of bills and post-it notes, etc., etc. Many of these tesserae are now yellowing, curling but, when the book was ready -- a decade later -- to come bursting up and out at the rate of 55,000 words over about two weeks' time, every single last one of those "notes to self" found its place in the story.
Amazing how that works: don't build it, and yet they will still all come (together, in the end).
An erotic novel, set in the Greek islands, featuring a 70-year-old woman protagonist... topped off by a huge scholarly glossary. Who'd'a thunk I had such a thing in me?
I suppose I knew, from the beginning, though, being the worshipful acolyte of Nin, Chaucer, Miller, Sappho, Catullus, Pauline Desclos, and others of their ilk, that it would be an erotic novel: I just could not, at 59, imagine how erotic.
Why this? Why now? I ask myself.
Why, at 59, this Kundalini Moment?
But The Muse dictates what she dictates, and I found, in the end, I ought to have written the thing on sheets of asbestos, for My Muse has a lot more in common with Aphrodite than Calliope (the Goddess of Epic Poetry).
Women don't really write erotica, do they? Women tend not to write steamingly graphic erotica. Generally the "objects" of such prose, we do not widely pick up such flaming quills; commend to paper such rampant ribaldry.
Well, not generally.
But my first "real" published work, a slim volume of poetry titled "The Crowded Bed," its various elements written under (mostly male) pseudonyms while my grandmothers still walked the earth, comprised erotica. So, it was to be expected: I was obviously not going to write decorous, Austenesque prose if even my poetry was full of acrobatically copulating creatures, not to speak of steamy four-letter words.
And so, now, here is the book. Done. Between covers. For sale online, if nowhere else, yet.
And I (and it) await my readers' pleasure.
Is it a Great American Novel? The Great American Erotic Novel?
You be the judges. Me? I'm busy now trying to get the screenplay from the book written and ready to go to Cannes on May 1 (God help me).
I'd love to have all your thoughts vis-à-vis casting.
PS The Great American Erotic Novel, aka The Visitors' Book (or Silva Rerum): An Erotic Fable, is only available, in a signed, limited edition, through VisitorsBookNovel.com.