Thanks for asking about how things are going with Returning. In truth, the novel I’m writing perplexes me, but I remain vigilant, trusting the bright gem of my initial vision and my commitment to listen to my characters. I started this novel last summer with the idea that I’d write a novel about a tennis prodigy who didn’t pan out and later accepted a role on a reality television series called Almost that took big-time failures from all over the sporting world and had them compete for a chance at $100,000 and a book contract (and bragging rights). And it is about that. But it’s also about atheism. This is another glare from the original gem. Before I wrote a word, when I was in the reading and thinking stage (this lasted a year, when I was allowing the idea to germinate and flower) I’d been very taken with two stories. One being Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open and the other the story of the late Christopher Hitchens’s battle with cancer and how he’d leveraged his atheism against the cruel randomness of dying slowly of a disease that simply came your way just because. Somehow I knew these ingredients would end up in the Returning pot together, I just wasn’t sure how. They came together in the characters of Christopher Downy-Parks and Chick Myers, who as I mentioned in my last letter, are the erstwhile protagonists of Returning. Chick has battled cancer while also coming to terms with the fact that he doesn’t believe in God. Former tennis prodigy and colossal bust Chris has gotten himself embroiled in the strange world of reality television celebrity culture and, blinded by fame, and the irresistible glow of the adulation his tennis failures had always denied him, can’t find a way to say “no” when a team of investors wants to adapt his life into a Broadway musical. At the point where I’m currently at in the writing, the musical has just debuted. In the novel’s five “Set” structure (couldn’t resist; it’s like an epic match, this book), the musical, entitled Indian Boy (Narrowly Misses Conquering the World) and its creation and aftermath is the Fourth Set.
Unfortunately, I need to cut this short. More later. Best to Martha and the girls.