Time to make an ass of myself.
After eleven years at the company I co-founded and five at Continuum; having worked on over 150 titles; and ghostwritten approximately ten books (including three in the last five years), I have decided that I need to concentrate on my own writing. If I don't do it now, I fear I may never get to undertake those projects that require concentration and dedicated time, and which I am not currently able to do while editing and acquiring books for Lantern. It is now, or it may be never.
Pending Lantern's finding of a suitable replacement
, I'm therefore going to take a twelve-month sabbatical from February 1, 2012. Some of you has asked just what I'm going to be working on. So, here is a list of some of the projects that I'll be trying to develop.
The Polar Bear in the Zoo
I've been interested in the work of the wonderful Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur for several years, particularly her We Animals
series. I'm especially drawn to the photograph of a polar bear in the zoo, which Lantern used for the cover of a book called Teaching the Animal
. I want to write about this photo, and how it captures the soteriological function of animals, the topsy-turvy world in which we interact with them, and a whole host of other prejudices, predilections, and permutations thereof. I will start with John Berger's chapter "Why We Look at Animals" from his book Ways of Seeing
and move into continental philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and aesthetics, all through the lens and frame of this photograph. This will be my "animal book," and will in due course be published by Lantern—if it's any good.
I've been reflecting on the story of Balaam
and the donkey from the Book of Numbers for almost 20 years. I was taken with Balaam's mysterious biography: how did he become a prophet and what happens in the Israelite camp that turns Balaam from a heroic prophet of Israelite triumph to a villain who is the nonpareil of mendacity and double-dealing? I then wondered to myself what would happen if the donkey continued to keep talking after their experience before the angel of the Lord? What stories would she tell? I have drafted an outline of that story, and now I need to tell it—or perhaps let it tell me.
I've been mulling over this story for a decade and a half. It's based on a number of true stories, but is fiction. The story is about what happens when a man who taught sign-language to a chimpanzee visits the ape in a primate lab facility. I have a draft that needs to be wholly rewritten. Open
form a diptych, each commenting on the other.
Whatever happened to King Lear's queen? Why is no mention of her made in Shakespeare's play? I've constructed a story that explains why Lear's daughters so readily plot his downfall, why the Fool remains so loyal, and why Cordelia seems so different from her sisters. Now I need to write it.
Vegans know what we don't
want, but what is our vision for what we do? Imagining an America that's vegan in 2100, I want to construct a number of arguments and storylines that follow dystopian, utopian, and a mixture of both "histories" to examine resource use, social change, economic development, and a range of other subjects, using veganism as a heuristic. Claude Levi-Strauss noted that "animals are good to think with." Veganism should be the same.
These are a few of the projects I want to develop. Others I can't talk about as yet. I'm not so naive as to believe that I'll finish these in twelve months, but I hope to push them forward. Thank you for your supportive thoughts.