A Set of Lines turns one

Today is the one-year anniversary of the publication of my novel A Set of Lines. To mark the occasion I thought I would offer a little history on its genesis. In a halfhearted attempt to ‘market’ the book when the ebook edition became available, I characterized it as ‘quotidian dystopiary meets nouveau roman,’ realizing even as I did so that this descriptor would likely either repel potential readers or simply generate blank stares. Chances are, even if you know and appreciate the French literary movement known as nouveau roman (see also: antinovel) that arose in the 1950s, you are unlikely to approve of or could even conceive of its integration with dystopian genre tropes. But to me it seemed like the most accurate way to describe the book, regardless of the likelihood of such a description alienating rather than engendering potential new readers.

I didn’t set out to write a novel blending these two types of fiction, nor did the revelation that this was what I had done immediately occur to me after finally finishing it. I was just reaching for a way to explain the book, which is typically something writers hate doing, but must at least attempt if they wish to attract readers. And, to be more precise, the nouveau roman doesn’t necessarily indicate a certain type of fiction. As a so-called movement it’s somewhat controversial, in that many or most of the writers grouped within it (notably by reviewers and critics, in general) did not see themselves as particularly unified in style or theme. That said, similarities do exist between some of their approaches.  

Eight years ago when I started writing what would become A Set of Lines, I had been gorging on nouveau roman writers—specifically a lot of Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet—and they had fully captivated me with their unique styles and focus on tone and mood over plot. As to the source of the novel’s dystopian tropes, I had always been drawn to this subgenre of science fiction, ever since I was a young reader. In my early 20s I’d even played in a concept band based on Orwell’s 1984. So I guess dystopia was in my blood from an early age, though I hadn’t been actively reading it as I began to write A Set of Lines.

I had, however, begun to see elements of both dystopian fiction and my favorite nouveau roman writers’ novels collide in my own daily life: stark repetition, circuitous conversations, blurring of dreams and waking life, hyper-exposed moments of quotidian life, endless meetings, rewriting and/or writing off the past by various overseers. Steeped in this milieu, from the kernel of a long-ago dream-memory (or was it a memory-dream) I began to write…

A Set of Lines review

The writer Rebecca Gransden posted an incisive review of A Set of Lines on Goodreads. Excerpt below:

There is a shorthand inherent in tackling dystopian themes, and Stewart moulds a knowing backdrop, using that shorthand to create a scaffolding which amplifies the atmosphere of benumbed melancholy. Throughout, there is an overwhelming sense of longing underneath the surface, a longing obfuscated and perhaps suppressed for so long, that its very function is being forgotten. The unconscious mind and its rebellion against passivity in the face of the denial of human wants and dignities is very present in this novel.

spectral rabbits

In an ongoing series depicting the After People world, GPA archivists report on an infestation of spectral rabbits, as seen through the eyes of one G. Hogg—a disgruntled groundhog just woken from her months-long nap.

a word was unfolding

I made this erasure earlier this year as part of a collaborative inquiry with Archivist NG into the origins of the Ghost Paper Archives. Full text in lined form appears below the images.

A Word Is Unfolding erasure

A Word Is Unfolding

An erasure made from a sibylline text created by splicing together excerpts from two public domain texts. Sources: The Night-Side of Nature, or Ghosts and Ghost-Seers by Catherine Crowe. B. B. Mussey & Co., 1850 (courtesy of Project Gutenberg);  The Dissociation of a Personality, a Biographical Study in Abnormal Psychology by Morton Prince. Longmans, Green, and Co., 1906 (courtesy of Internet Archive).

a word was unfolding the present
as the present is hypnosis
one being involved in the other
when the victim of action she was a spirit
what loss is to happen
what has happened
what peculiar circumstances
since last fall

this condition we do not know
but that certain thing
telling frightful lies
the worst condition
all experience the moment to feel mortified
however they tell these lies to only one person
and her friend falls into doubt

at a much later date I had opportunities,
his Creator a hundred times might say
we admit this and witness that, for more reasons
in automatism they sleep,
early beginnings exercise the here
in prophetic dreaming

seeing in dreams
may be spontaneous
time and phenomena form no obstruction
to the dreamer things near and far are later
in the nothing mirror self
and nothing to connect what took place
she knew she was the future

such phenomena interest him
man has lost his faculty of seeing
but in sleep the body in a state of passivity
even normal minds split in two
by shutting the senses
we perceive the spirit
when freed from impediments
they enjoy original design

the mirror of two minds at one still moment
receives in dreams rays from above
foretaste of the condition

at this date history has been opinion
the mental ancient life
the original state dubbed from his Creator
that unexpected process
the waking pain self
transformed into the slang of “It”

for his sensuous organs she had the objects
his soul field post-hypnotic
mirror pointed out
everything was reflected

a doubling is induced
a spirit no longer independent
a condition to perceive
degraded and distracted
by the multiplicity

A Set of Lines ebook edition

A Set of Lines front cover

At long last the ebook edition of my novel A Set of Lines is available. The book can be downloadedfree for a limited timein a reader’s choice of all the usual formats. Many thanks to GPA archivist-technician Nathan Grover for his amiable tenacity in making this happen. For more information on A Set of Lines, including how to order the paperback edition, please visit Ghost Paper Archives. Reviews of the book can be found on Goodreads and at A Wild Slim Alien.

 

the sleek ones

In a new post on the Ghost Paper Archives site, three GPA archivists collaboratively ruminate on the arrival of ‘the sleek ones’.

an interview with fustus

Now introducing…Fustus!

A Set of Lines review

A Set of Lines has received its first review outside of Goodreads. This perceptive review comes by way of long-time comrade-in-letters and master lipogramist Daniel Williams, aka awildslimalien.

The Immaculate

Over at the Ghost Paper Archives site, the tenacious archivists have accosted an intriguing individual known only as The Immaculate for the purpose of a brief interview session. Methinks Mac could have strolledcoattails flappingstraight out from the pages of a Angela Carter novel…

visit the nobody zone

after people, a bird reflects

In a new series on the Ghost Paper Archives site, the resident archivist-reporters explore the Nobody Zone in words and images. Read the first installment and subscribe for future posts on the right sidebar of the GPA site (no WordPress account needed).

  • Recent Posts

  • Navigation Station

    The links along the top of the page are rudimentary attempts at trail markers. Otherwise, see below for more search and browse options.

  • In Search of Lost Time

  • Personal Taxonomy

  • Common Ground

  • Resources

  • BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS