her tea basket
dare to write
Or at least a novella.
Laura works for a marketing agency. She writes poetry, and sends poems to Geoffrey, her lover of 28 months and 28 hotel rooms. She knows Geoffrey is bound to walk away at some point; she senses the relationship won’t last. She carries baggage, family baggage, from the past. Her Twitter friend Megan has dared her to a novel, and so far all Laura has been able to write is “The End.”
And all of this swirls and stews, jumbles and brews into The Novelist, a novella by L.L. Barkat. The work is both a novella and, between the lines, a discussion of and meditation upon writing and the writing process.
Barkat, the author of a memoir (Stone Crossings), a book on creativity and writing (Rumors of Water), a collection of poetry (Inside/Out), and a spiritual exercise book (God in the Yard) has turned her hand to fiction, bringing to her story the same spare, almost stripped-down and laser-like reflection that she brings to her others works, including the poems. Perhaps especially the poems, as The Novelist might be considered an extended poem in a prose format – and an extended poem about writing.
As we travel through Laura’s landscape – her interior landscape – we find writers like Mario Vargas Llosa, Marilynne Robinson, Tim O’Brien, and James Scott Bell; poets like Adrienne Rich; non-fiction writers; and even a few references to “that Barkat woman.” We find poems, too, for Laura is, after all, a poet, doing what poets and writers do to make sense of the world around them – and that is to draw upon their own lives and experiences to try to create something true. Or at least something that will help pay the bills.
Writing comes from life, not only living life but grappling with the whats and the whys and the hows. That is what Laura is doing in the The Novelist – grappling with her life, even as it is being transformed around her.
Where did she put that tea basket?