This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection, the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.
Ever meet one of those mediocre people that never risk anything, but are cynical of everyone else that does? These people give the impression they could be fabulous if they wanted to, but somehow it’s beneath them.
This is Hal, the main character in Lydia Millet’s novel Ghost Lights.
Did Millet set out to have such an unlikeable protagonist? I don’t know. There are so many dead ends and false starts in this novel this reader got the impression the author had no idea what was going on in her book. I sure didn’t.
Hal’s daughter is a paraplegic. His wife’s employer has gone missing in Central America. Hal and his wife are looking after his three-legged dog. Hal thinks his wife is having an affair with a colleague. Hal decides he will go and look for his wife’s missing employer. Once in Central America he enlists the help of a couple on vacation from Germany. Hal has sex with the wife. While searching in the jungle for the missing employer there’s an indication of a rebel encampment. A gay fighter pilot bombs the camp. Hal has finds his wife’s employer having a mid-life crisis on a deserted beach.
For me nothing computes, nothing connects. It’s like the author threw stuff in as she went along wondering how it would play out. When it didn’t, she abandoned it.
When I read a novel like this I often ask myself what am I missing? Are there metaphors or symbolism I’m just too dumb to get?
Guess what? I don’t care.