My “Bloomsday Book” is actually an episode in a larger project I started a little more than two years ago in a café in Natchez. At the time I wanted to write a homecoming narrative, a story about someone coming home after being away for a long time. For many years I thought about sending one of my characters (Adam perhaps) back home and writing about the experience in some fictional way. The notes I wrote that day eventually formed the kernel of a fat book and the “Bloomsday Book” is a substantial fraction of the third part (of four). The other day, while reading Sergio Chejfec’s My Two Worlds I realized that the fourth part of this fat work-in-progress will be none other than Without a Trace, a novel that I’ve attempted (unsuccessfully) to write at least four times. Chejfec’s meditations on traces brought me back to Walter Benjamin.
This fat book in four parts doesn’t have a title. I have the name of each of the parts: Red Neck, Discontent, Home, and Without a Trace. But the whole itself? Given that the text of Red Neck was (in part) posted on my old blog Donavan’s Brain, I was tempted to repurpose that blog title for this fat work-in-progress. Donavan’s Brain is probably as accurate a description of what the book is about as any other title I can think of. I could call it Diary, but then what would I call this collection of blog posts? Or perhaps I’ll call it Argentina. You see the problems I have to deal with as a writer.
Why do I admire Aira? Because he writes short books in cafés in Buenos Aires? Anyone can write short books and café owners don’t care what you do at your table as long as you pay your bills and keep to yourself. As I read his How I Became a Nun I thought, Hey, I can do this. He’s just writing down whatever comes to mind. The imperative is production, but not the sort of production associated with industrial manufacturing; here it’s the production of the artisan, the craftsman who makes something with his hands, slowly and with attention to detail and knowing that the work of his hands will say something about what sort of man he is.