Published on September 21, 2014
In these instances the binary is cut and dry. Subject x is clearly chill. Subject y is super fraud. This: chill. That: fraud. Okay. Life can resume happening. But what if a person, place, or thing exists somewhere in between chill and fraud? Like Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain ? Like gentrified Brooklyn? Like me? What then? … What happens then? * * * Is my novel chill…or fraud? This is the question that every novelist must ask himself. Before the first word he writes, during every word that follows, after he inks the final period, he must ask himself this question. “Chill,” the novelist must ask himself, “or fraud?” One hundred fifty years ago, Herman Melville was sitting in his log cabin or whatever, in New England or wherever, holding his quill or whatever, staring at the blank piece of parchment or whatever on which he would write Moby Dick . “Is Moby Dick chill,” Herman Melville asked himself, “or fraud?” He didn’t know then, as we know now, that symbolic whales are chill. He didn’t know that Queequeg was chill, or that the Shakespearean cadence of Ahab’s apostrophes was chill. All he had was faith in the chill-ness of his idea, his stupid whale novel idea. Which is the only way to begin a real novel: with conviction. Anything less than absolute conviction in your novel’s chill-ness is a direct path to fraud-ness. That’s why the first sentence of Moby Dick is in the imperative. It’s not “Call me…Ishmael?” It’s “Call me Ishmael.” It’s Herman Melville saying this without saying this: “Call me Chill.” Thankfully, I’m not a real novelist. Allow me to explain. Ten minutes ago, I was in my twin-sized bed in my okay-sized apartment in gentrified Brooklyn. I was staring at the blank Word document on which I would type Chill or Fraud? “Is Chill or Fraud? chill,” I asked myself, “or fraud?” I didn’t know then, as I still don’t know now, whether implicitly comparing myself to Herman Melville was chill. I didn’t know whether these words were chill enough to warrant typing, or if I was fraud enough not to care if you thought they were chill enough to warrant typing. All I had were doubts about the chill-ness of the idea, my stupid novel idea. That’s why the first sentence of this novel is in the interrogative. It’s not “I am chill…not fraud.” It’s “Am I chill…or fraud?” I’m no novelist. I’m no Herman Melville. I never will be. I’m not that creative. Don’t call me chill.