By Ian MacAllen on Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 at 12:07 am
What began as a short story eight years ago grew into Ted Thompson’s debut novel, The Land of Steady Habits. Thompson, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s workshop, launched the novel at BookCourt in Brooklyn. Cupcakes were served.
BookCourt sold out of the novel. The last copy sat on the podium snatched away just before Thompson stepped up to read. He snapped a photo, then read from the opening of the book.
The novel begins with the protagonist, Anders Hill, attending a holiday party hoping to encounter his ex-wife. At a party the year before, Anders “turned and announced to the room that they hadn’t had sex in five months, and, even though he was over sixty, it wasn’t because of his penis either.” Anders ends up smoking marijuana, and only afterward learns its laced with PCP causing Anders to worry; PCP could be addictive. And so with this odd sense of humor begins the “suburban commuter novel” favorably compared to those of John Updike and John Cheever.
Thompson, who also chronicles the writer’s life on his blog, wrote up a summary of the evolution of the novel from a story to a nouvella to novelette into a full blown novel. The original story bookends the novel. The first scene of the story has since become the the opening of the book, and the second scene the closing dinner. While writing, the two scenes grew into a hundred pages, then a hundred and sixty, and then he had to stop lying to himself: he had a novel.
“I wanted to write something that was light and easy,” he said. He has transcended the ambition seemingly accidentally.
Of the comparisons to Cheever and Updike, Thompson says at first he felt excited. But when he started looking closer a sense of confusion set in since neither Cheever nor Updike seemed similar to each other, let alone to his novel. “I realized its all about subject matter,” he said.
“It took me a while to accept that I was writing within a tradition,” he adds.
When it came to writing a significantly older character, Thompson says that he gave himself permission to use his imagination and not worry too much about accuracy. Only as the book approached publication did he begin to wonder if some older reader would question the verisimilitude.
He’s already working on a new novel, though he concedes maybe the first draft of the plot seemed a bit complicated. He was out with a friend one night after finishing The Land of the Steady Habits explaining the new project. His friend said to him: “that’s going to take so f*cking long.”
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
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