Friday, June 19, 2009

Yours from purgatory

It's the early 1980s. I'm passing time in 11th grade geometry class with Dante's Inferno. Jennifer Brady, who I know from junior high school band and who occasionally says hello to me, turns around and says, "Whatcha reading?" "It's a story about a man who goes on a tour of hell, and then he goes to purgatory and then he goes to heaven," I say. Jennifer digests this a few minutes, and then chirps, "What's purgatory?"
Everyone knows that the Inferno is the best part of Dante's Divine Comedy. Interesting people, interesting punishments, a little defiance, lots of regrets. It's around Purgatorio that most readers' attention flags. You do meet some characters in purgatory but there's a lot of preaching, too, and some pretty crushing symbolism. (Paradiso, forget about it -- it's all angels and light and weird astronomy.) Basically in Purgatory you're recognizing your sins and working through them. Near the end, as I recall, Dante walks through a wall of fire which purges the last of them away. Well, this seems to be where I am now. I realized recently that How to See the Elephant was too long for a YA novel and I have decided to split it into two, stand-alone volumes. (Somewhat along the lines of Octavian Nothing.) As a result, I have to revise the first half so that it can stand alone as a novel. It's not major revision (mainly just smoothing certain patches and tying up a couple of loose ends) but it's not what I wanted to be doing at this point. Yesterday I couldn't help thinking of Dante's wall of flame. All week I've been recognizing my sins, in the form of paragraphs that don't quite mean what I meant them to mean, and purging them away. It's scary work because what I don't want to do is fall down into the inferno of never-ending revision. (I've been there and I'm not going back...) After a few hours my brain is weary, and then I go to the gym or eat and settle back down with my MS and my post-it notes again.
It will be done eventually. But for now, its yours from purgatory.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Poor thing. I should join you. I have a major revision to do, and I blog and work on two other projects and occasionally poke around the edges of the one that will drag me into purgatory, too.

Laura Canon said...

I always feel like I can't do both -- blog and write. I've been neglecting everything shamefully recently.