I’m Writing A Novel and 16 Other Statements of Self-Definition

1. I am writing a novel.

There are few phrases more fraught with more personal and social peril than this. Once I put it out there, this bright badge I’d decided give myself throughout my 20s and 30s, then I had to talk about it.

How’s the novel going? It’s going. This was the most truthful answer I could give. If I felt talkative, I’d paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, who once equated novel writing to World War I trench warfare. Long stretches of nothing happening, then sudden flurries of action and movement that may or may not be considered progress.

So what’s the novel about? Best answer I’ve ever given: Nouns. When pressed, I dropped a few real examples from what I was working on: conspiracy theories, frogs, reality TV, garage rock, psychedelic drugs, politics, 19th Century Brazilian history, Indiana, fish, Ancient Rome, the Rodney King trial. And cancer…

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