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27 November 2010
BOSTON, Massachusetts -- Pushed up against a far corner of the wall and beneath a shelf of dusty books in the living area of a humble little one-bedroom apartment in Back Bay sits an old maple desk. Sunlight from a window casts upon it, illuminating dancing little specks of dust which settle upon its varnished surface like noble drops of morning dew. Posters of impressionist paintings line the walls above, peeling, poetically.
“You like this?” says the owner of the desk. “It’s an antique. From the 19th century. I find old things rather inspiring. Makes me think about the sorts of people who once used them and all the stories their lives once told.”
Alan McPherson, amateur poet and curator for a local Tupperware museum, spends almost nine hours a day here at this desk, thinking, dreaming, and doodling in his various journals, stopping only to eat and use the restroom.
This is because Alan is on a mission. Or, rather, was.
For the past seven years now, Alan has participated in the annual event known as “National Novel Writing Month” or “NaNoWriMo”, an event where millions of aspiring authors attempt to reach a target number of 50,000 words within the span of one month and then go on to dump their fresh, pungent load of intellectual excretions into the laps of unfortunate publishers nationwide.
“Ever since I was a kid I dreamed about writing a novel,” says Alan. “When I friend of mine told me about NaNoWriMo I jumped on it right away. With just a few clicks, I joined the website, updated my profile, and have been an avid participant ever since.”
According to the site, Alan enjoys tennis, reading, and staring reticently at the moon into the wee hours of morning.
But like so many years before, once again, nearly four weeks into it, Alan is on the verge of failing to accomplish his goal. Of his target 50,000 words, Alan has managed a sum total of 40, or roughly the same amount of seconds it takes for people to truly appreciate an expertly-crafted piece of Tupperware.
Explains Alan: “Well, so I was about three sentences in when I realized that one of my primary characters was named Miriam. I have an aunt who lives out in Michigan named Miriam. So then I thought that if she’s going to read this, which I’m sure she would, then she would think it was about her. That would’ve caused all sorts of problems and then I’d probably have to call her and eventually fly out there and explain my entire thought process in person, etc. etc. Needless to say, I had to totally scrap that idea.”
Alan had initially intended for his novel to be a sort of dark sci-fi fantasy adventure story with themes of identity and loss, but after about four days he realized that what he really wanted to write was a parody of a sci-fi fantasy adventure story with themes of identity and loss. Soon after, he decided that he wanted to write an Epistolary novel, except instead of having main characters who would write letters back and forth to each other thus furthering the plot, the letters themselves would be the characters. Then he decided that this was a stupid idea and went out to go get some pizza.
“I really considered going with the idea I had last year. Last year, it was a sort of Medieval-Europe-meets-Old-West thing I had going on. There we’re gonna be dragons and gunfights, and the main guy, he was pretty cool. He was this sort of cowboy gypsy fella, orphaned at the age of nine, out seeking revenge on the wizard who killed his daughter. Or his parents, maybe.”
Last year, Alan had managed to write a total of 127 words.
In the end, Alan had settled on writing a novel set in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil war and following the lives of four or perhaps nine Communist rebels and their dogs. He dedicated at least 30 of his 40 words to describing a field in the springtime, where something pivotal was about to take place. Friday morning, after rereading the passage and declaring it “extremely boring”, Alan decided to call it quits. When asked why he decided to give up now after seven years of utter failure, Alan mostly blames the “lack of a proper environment” and the “stress that work has brought him what with the preparations for the holiday season and all”.
“Plus I finally got a Wii,” he adds.
Though admittedly disheartened, Alan plans to continue writing poetry, much of which follows a strong radically minimalist tradition. He hopes his new book, entitled “Moon Poems”, will be picked up by a publisher sometime soon.
|This article features first-hand journalism by an UnNews correspondent.|