Is it self-indulgent to quote myself? Probably. But do I get credit for being self-aware enough to acknowledge that I recognize this? I pose these questions because my job today is to riff in a most biased fashion on Wheatyard, the debut novel by good friend Pete Anderson.
Which I will do now. Promise.
Debut novels are, by their nature, both self-indulgent and self-aware. Self-indulgent because who said that anyone has any right to assume anyone cares about anything writers have to say? And yet self-aware because without at least some level of self-awareness, all debut novels would tell the same story again and again–someone meets someone, someone leaves someone, someone’s family is fucked-up, someone finds redemption–but bring nothing new to the table. Or the Kindle if that’s your thing.
Which brings me back to my own self-absorption, though I swear there will be no more about me after this. It’s all Anderson and Wheatyard henceforth. Promise.
Anyway, I was invited to blurb Wheatyard and I had the following to say:
“For the people who tell us books are dying, I would suggest they grab a cold beer, find a porch, and read Wheatyard, so they can remind themselves how much words can still dance on the printed page, and how much feeling, suppressed and otherwise, can be found in this debut novel’s vibrant passages.”
I share this because the thing I want to say about Wheatyard more than anything else is that it is a novel that believes in the power and urgency of words. But this belief is not merely limited to the words splashed across the pages themselves. The characters in Wheatyard believe in words and the printed page as well.
Which brings me back to Anderson, and I did promise I would focus on him, right? I did.
So here it is. In the end, Wheatyard is the story of two men: one buttoned-up, isolated, and wanting something more to believe in, albeit somewhat lacking in self-awareness; the other unstable, isolated, and self-absorbed, but free to write if he can just find a way to focus on doing so.
It is somewhere in the intersection of ideas and determination, self-awareness and self-absorption, and isolation–because the writer is always isolated–that creativity lives, and breathes, and searches for oxygen.
Which, of course, is exactly what debut novelists know like nobody’s business. Ideas are just ideas until you sit down and write, and that’s what Pete has done. He sat down and he told his story—in a loving and urgent fashion.