The Opposite of Art, first draft

Hey, remember me? I've been gone a while. On Wednesday I sent a good first draft of THE OPPOSITE OF ART off to the editor. As always, in the final months of work on a new novel it becomes impossible to even think about keeping up with this blog. Wish I could do both, but there's only so much energy in this little brain of mine. Anyway, the hard part's over now, so I'm back.

I'm excited about this new novel. After moving further into "magical realism" territory with LOST MISSION, this one continues the momentum in that direction. Most readers seem to think RIVER RISING is my best work so far, but I suspect they're about to change their minds. Here's a taste from the first draft:

The sirens called him from his dreams. When the racket stopped, he rose and crossed the little bedroom of his hotel suite to lean naked out into the night, trusting his life to the freezing wrought iron railing just beyond the window so he could gaze down into the alley where a couple of New York’s finest had thrown some guy up against the bricks. Even from five floors up, even in the dark, Ridler recognized the lust for violence and the fear down there, but that was nothing compared to the play of the police car’s lights on the brick wall across the alley.

Shivering, he watched the blood and bruises rhythm of the red and blue, red and blue, the flashes regular against the motionless pattern of the dirty terra cotta colored masonry, worlds colliding in the two configurations, lights ethereal and fleeting, bricks stacked earthy and unchanged for generations. In the time and space created at the intersection of those patterns Ridler saw deep shadows slash across the wall, carved out of the light by the few bricks which had resisted the usual linear fate of their kind, standing out a little, casting empty voids across their fellows like witches conjuring a pitch-black portal to a future or a past. Lately he’d been interested in voids, in portals. He sensed a presence waiting beyond time in them, something no one else had painted. Gazing at the blank brick wall Ridler ignored the policeman down below pummeling the screaming fellow’s kidneys with methodical jabs, left, right, left, right. Although that too was a pattern in its way, there was no color in it, and certainly no transcendence.

When the screaming stopped and the guy dropped face down in a puddle of oily rainwater, Ridler tucked his long black hair behind his ear to better consider the rotating lights rippling in the glistening pavement around the body. Steam arose like ectoplasm at a manhole cover, transubstantiated from ghostly grays to primary colors by the police car’s flashing lights. It occurred to Ridler they would switch off the lights at any moment.

Turning from the window with a curse he ran into the sitting room, which he used as a studio, easel standing on a paint-splattered tarp in one corner, finished paintings hanging everywhere, stacks of waiting canvases against the walls. From the dining table he gathering his sketchpad and some pastels. Seconds later he was back in the bedroom, bare haunch against the window jamb, half in, half out, colored chalks and charcoals on the sill beside him, fingers dashing back and forth across the pad, eyes mainly on the wall across the alley, ignoring the cold in his desperation to memorize the image in case he couldn’t get it down before they killed it off forever.

The lights went out. The brick wall was just a wall again. Ridler leaned dangerously far out into the frigid air beyond the wrought iron railing, teetering five stories up to scream, “Turn your lights back on!” The policemen down below ignored him, focused as they were on dragging the inert man over to their car. Ridler’s breath turned into clouds, drifting off into the night. “Give me back my lights!” The policemen drove away without bothering to look up. Pulling back in from the brink, Ridler muttered, “Pigs.”

(Opening paragraphs of the first draft, THE OPPOSITE OF ART, which will be published in the spring)

Posted byAthol Dickson at 8:45 AM 5 comments