|Speak to me!
I had a good lunch with Jonathan today.
We were catching up and spoke of various things: MEMSI, the blog, the shape of the field, summer travels, writing. Jonathan's book is out next year. As I keep announcing, I'm hermitizing myself and devoting the end of September to January finishing my own. Progress was slow last year despite having had leave time. In part that uncharacteristic lack of velocity was due to other projects: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral; Prismatic Ecologies (out next fall); a big lecture or two (or three) -- and a number of essays due. Yet I've also had a harder time writing Stories of Stone than my previous projects. It's my fourth monograph, but the first for which I sometimes think about audience and expectations while writing (a paralyzing mistake). The book is also an aggregate of many previously published pieces -- something like eight -- and making a symphony of that repetitive and divergent cacophony is not easy. There's a great deal of new material as well, and it has been difficult to draw a line around adding even more: the project could become infinite, since the petric is omnipresent as both material and metaphor.
To return to the lunch, though. Jonathan asked me if I was going to keep the nontraditional modes of writing that appear in some of the published essays as they become parts of the book. (You can see an example in my previous post, a draft of an essay which interweaves a text with its interrupted performance; the revised version even includes some strategic use of Old Norse as Grettir, facing death, comments upon his door bursting). I like writing this way for short essays and the blog, but I'm not sure it could work for a book. So far I've been stripping such moments as essays transform into chapters. Every book wants to speak in its own tone, and within its own mode. So far this book is far more straightforwardly scholarly in its voice than much of what I've composed over the past few years. Maybe I'm going to be a leader in the New Critical Dullness movement.
Or maybe you have to adopt a traditional mode when you are arguing for the life of stone. It is also possible that when I return to the book later this month the personal and the inventive will ask to be restored. Blog posts like this one stay with me in a way that more straightforward essays do not; I just don't know that an entire monograph can emerge from such a mixed frame. Wouldn't that be too distracting? I don't want to make the same mistake I did with Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity, which I revised to speak in a voice not quite its own.
Stories of Stone: when the lithic speaks, what does it sound like? How will its voice resound?