Shunga-Satori: Over The Top, Out The Bottom

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-02-22 16:00:00-05:00 No comments

If I haven't been posting much lately, it's only because I've been face-deep in the first stages of writing Shunga-Satori, the next novel. As I half-jokingly say, that's the one people are more likely to hate outright (or, maybe even worse, shrug off indifferently) than anything else I've ever done.

Every book I take up functions in some way as an envelope-pusher for myself, but the envelope is never pushed in exactly the same way twice. Sometimes it's the top edge of the envelope that gets pushed; sometimes it's the sides. To abuse this metaphor even further, this time around it's the bottom of the envelope getting shoved at. It's the most introspective, and for that reason potentially alienating, thing I've done since Welcome To The Fold.

The details of what goes on in the book are not what I'm on about right now, though; it's more the impulse behind the book's ambitions. The need to one-up, to surpass, to transcend and push beyond, to make each thing more of a leap than the last — is all that incompatible with coherency and discipline? With each leap into something more daring, there comes the greater risk of leaving the rest of the world behind, of going from the relative accessibility of Dubliners to the language salad of Finnegans Wake.

This is not a path I want to wend down. Sacrificing coherency (let's not even say "accessibility") for the sake of upping my game sounds like a losing proposition. If I can't tell the story to anyone but myself, then it's not much of a story. Yes, even if my audience is my sweet self and my fan base of six.

Not long ago I said something to the effect of, "I don't want to write the kinds of things I wouldn't even want to read in the first place." I once had a taste for the most recondite and abstruse of fiction, but it took some work on my part to realize it wasn't because I really liked any of it; it was out of some misguided effort to join some club that existed mostly in my own head, and whose shibboleths included difficult tastes. Liking individual authors who had elements of the difficult in them didn't mean difficult fiction was my default starting point, or the apex of my ambitions either.

The kind of work I genuinely liked the most, and the kind I found I most wanted to produce, was a) straightforwardly enjoyable on the surface but b) inwardly attuned to complexities it raised. If I failed at b) with any one thing, I needed to make sure I didn't fail at a). Make something a fun read, and people forgive a lot.

If there was an envelope I wanted most to push, that was it: the envelope of "accessible and fun" as it edged up against "complex and challenging". The boundary between the two can be moved, and sometimes made to disappear. Just as long as I try to always remember which side to enter on.

Tags: Shunga-Satori creativity experimentation writing