In chapter 7 of my novel, A Derivation of Love, Desmond decides to write a semi-autobiographical novel about boys and girls and the problems between them. The chapter concludes when a friend tells him to put lots of sex in the book, otherwise, “it won’t sell.”
At this stage in the novel, which has been described recently by one friendly reader as “sex drenched, yet bleak,” it’s fairly obvious that the author of Derivation has taken to heart the idea that sex sells.
For me, this less-than-sly self-reference is also a key moment in the narrative. It’s here that the author’s story and Desmond’s merge.
In writing the book, the author learns what Desmond can’t yet know — e.g. what the book is about — but it is because of what he learns that the author can finish the book. The meta-joke, then, is a gnostic deus ex machina.
Desmond’s story continues for two more short chapters and the book concludes with a characterization of Desmond’s experience which he himself can not yet offer. So, the author intrudes once more and the “why” of Desmond’s experience is explained in the last paragraph — really, in the very last sentence.
Desmond’s bleak emotional solipsism is, for him, beautiful and, I think, many of us are similarly constrained by our own immutable aesthetic, however different it may be from Desmond’s.
What do you think?
Are the problems between boys and girls (and girls and girls and boys and boys) best explained by an unwillingness to revise the story we’ve written for ourselves when another person enters into it?
The gnostic meta-joke also references Chapter 5, one of the more sexually explicit chapters of the book.
A young Desmond, tired of struggling with George Orwell’s 1984, discards the book, masturbates, and his fantasy is described in vivid detail. Desmond, we have learned, is reading 1984 only because he mistakenly thought it would be a sexually explicit book, after stumbling across the only sexualized scene of the novel.
The “almost finished” version of Derivation has been online for a couple of years now and Chapter 5 is the second most popular post on my blog, second only to “Brazil Nuts and the Sexual Politics of Hair”. Needless to say, the tag “student-teacher fantasy” has drawn more than it’s fair share of page views.
It amuses me to think of some titillated reader — like Desmond — scouring the rest of my blog, looking for similarly salacious content, with no success.