Recalling My First (And Only) Novel

“One of these days”, I keep telling myself, “I’m gonna finish writing that novel”

But I don’t have patience for that shit. Or the attention span.

Yet after nearly two years of finishing an impressive first draft, I believe it would be interesting to revisit. I initially completed it and deliberately waited awhile until I would begin revisions. It was written over the course of two to three months in a fury of inspiration. I needed some time away from it. I needed to discover what it meant to me. Now, a couple of years removed from it, it almost slipped my mind.

But who the fuck am I kidding? I ain’t ever going to finish that thing. Nevertheless, looking it over for the first time in awhile, it reveals a lot about who I was.

The story is simple: a loser and drug abuser, Rod Townshend, in his early 20s gets caught up with an older woman and eventually ruins her son (and his girlfriend’s) life. Meanwhile, Rod also gets mixed up drunken and legendary local writer and messes around with some white trash crack whores.

In my mind, I was trying to create a Charles Bukowski-like adventure on the plains of east Oklahoma. I was trying to think of the shittiest place to put a novel, and that’s what I came up with.

The story itself doesn’t sound elaborate, but it explored the existential themes of escaping (or denying) the self that lies underneath…the problems we inherit…and the inescapable doom of becoming who we are. Rod Townshend was comfortable with his fate, until the antagonist…infamous writer Jack Schilling….pushes him to the brink. Rod temporarily escapes his self-imposed doom, only to later discover that Jack was right…he’s never going to change.

The paragraph above is better than anything that I wrote in that novel.

But there were two films that inspired this story, and neither of them should come as a surprise to anyone: The Last Temptation of Christ and Casino Royale. These films are (somewhat) thematically related.

Hear me out.

In The Last Temptation of Christ, we see Jesus struggle with his mission. He wants to serve God, yet he yearns to live a human life. Finally, when it comes time to sacrifice on the Cross, he is informed that he’s not the Messiah and is free to live his life. So Jesus lives on to old age, only to find out that it was HE that betrayed Judas by NOT dying on the Cross and his whole life after the Crucifixion was a lie. In a state of shock, Jesus repents then finds himself back on the cross where he blissfully shouts “It is accomplished!”.

In Casino Royale, James Bond doesn’t necessarily have the same internal struggle. Yet when he meets Vesper Lynd, he becomes willing to put aside his ass-kicking, boozing, and womanizing ways to be with her. After being brutally tortured, Vesper helps nurture Bond back to health and he later resigns from the Secret Service to travel around the world with his love. Later, he finds out it was all a betrayal. Finally, Bond shoots down the man who set him up, where he looks into the camera and says “My name is Bond, James Bond.”

Both films have a strange detour in the last act. After coming off the cross, Jesus is seen marrying Mary Magdalene, having children, and growing to old age. Meanwhile, Bond is seen in a sickly manner and later admits to loving a woman…which was something that wasn’t seen since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. These scenes feel out of place in both films, and perhaps deliberately so. Both characters are living a life that they’ve imagined for themselves, only to find out that it’s all a lie.

In the end, however, order is restored. Jesus fulfills His mission to become Savior for all humanity, and Bond becomes the classic character that we all know and love. Nothing changes for the audience…their hero still saves the day. But such heroics come at a deep personal cost….no matter what, Jesus Christ HAS to be the Savior, and James Bond HAS to be an alcoholic, womanizing secret agent. They can’t escape who they are.

Rod Townshend is presented with the same dilemma.

He’s a boozing, lazy, piece of shit. He brings out the worst in people. Perhaps Rod doesn’t intentionally mean to be this way, he just IS. And none of this is lost on Jack Schilling who, like Rod, has the same self-destructive tendencies. But unlike Rod, Jack is happy with this role. He THRIVES in it.

After a series of unfortunate events, Rod escapes Jack and the destruction he left behind…only to discover the life he THOUGHT he wanted. Yet in the end, people are doomed to be who they are, and it all becomes a lie. Jack was right about Rod the whole time…he’s a wrecking ball on other’s emotions.

My life was somewhat coming up by the seams at this time. I believe my first go-around with AA occurred shortly after completing the draft. Things were still normal however…I completed my graduate degree a few months earlier and I was steadily climbing the ladder. But I knew I had a drinking problem.

Did I believe that I was Rod Townshend?

I might’ve been able to check all the marks of a normal person…an education, a marriage, a career….but was all that not real? Am I really just a lazy alcoholic living a false life?

It all came crumbling down a few months ago. I was exposed for who I was…but not in the way you might think. I was exposed as an alcoholic, but I also found out what was important to me. The bars, the booze…that was the façade. Rod Townshend was the false life I was living.

I don’t know if that makes sense.

But I’m glad that I rediscovered “Untitled4” or whatever it was called. I probably won’t ever finish the book, but it does leave me curious….is that end of Rod Townshend?

 

 

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