The world my book is published into looks very different from the world I started writing in | Ronnie Scott
Writing fiction is always an exercise in letting go of relevancy. Publishing a pool scene in a plague year achieves this. Writing a gay novel does too
In the place where writers keep talismans that egg them on and freak them out, I keep a quote from an article that discusses where consciousness lives. The quoted scientist whom I will not name, as I do not understand his theories claims the mind is like a phantom limb: One is the ghost in the body and the other is the ghost in the head.
I mostly enjoy this line because the language is very dark (who wants to think of their mind as a ghost that lives in their head?) but also because it prompts me to ask questions about writing novels. If the mind is the ghost in the head, what is the novel a ghost of?
Like every Australian novelist putting a book out this month, Im publishing it into a different world than the one I wrote it in. The Adversary is a novel of manners, meaning its a book where people hang out and socialise and not a lot actually goes on. There are two best friends. Theyre both gay men. They have to change their friendship. Along the way, they share cigarettes and touch each others hair. They step over strangers to find the right spot at a shockingly populous pool, where they sweat liberally, sweat stickily and share meaningful bites of their food.
In other words, the novel of manners is a handsy, social form, which meant one thing when I wrote it and another in April 2020, when it now suggests a Covid-19 incubator. Not many projects age quite like that while theyre at the printer. But writing fiction is always an exercise in letting go of ones relevancy. Publishing a pool scene in a plague year is one way to achieve this. Writing a gay novel is another.
Let me tell you the tragedy of the best image I found for The Adversary. The year was 2015. The place was Brunswick, Victoria. I walked down a street where a giant-sized poster was glued on to a brick wall. It featured a blue pill and the commanding text: YOU CAN F*** RAW. PrEP WORKS. NO MORE HIV.
PrEP stood for pre-exposure prophylaxis, an HIV-prevention regime but you know this, because in our current year its on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and up to 27,000 people use oral PrEP in Australia. Back in 2015, I moistened my quill and exclaimed, A ha! A symbol, loving the image of that floating blue pill, which looked like a capsule from Venus.