In a Nutshell

by | Dec 10, 2006 | The Great American Desert

Related Categories: The Great American Desert
Posts by: Brian

I seem to be getting behind on my blog lately, like what happens with those journals that so many of us have started at times with great enthusiasm but in which we gradually lose interest until they lie around accusing us of laziness.  Ended up working all last week is what happened, so I will try to not let that happen again.  Years ago, when I was in the tree business, I hired a kid who didn’t have a whole lot of motivation.  I asked him what sort of a job it was he was really looking for, and he answered, without skipping a beat and without a trace of irony, that he wanted to find ‘one of them jobs where you don’t work hard but they pay you a lot of money, except them kind of jobs are hard to find.’  I’d like one of them jobs too, and I would even work hard as long as I didn’t have to do it more than two days a week.

Starting tomorrow I do have a two-day-a-week job.  I get to design and teach a writing seminar for the upper grades in the elementary school I taught at last week.  Right up my alley, and sure beats subbing.  Unfortunately, they’re paying me at the substitute rate, so it’s not exactly the sort of job my erstwhile employee was looking for.

And then yesterday I played catch-up all day with all the stuff that didn’t get done last week, then ended up at a party with a bunch of Argentineans, who keep the same sort of hours as Spaniards do.

But today I was going to write about Spain again, or else about the second half of Cyril Connolly’s book, until, very late this morning, I checked my email, and there was a message from a reader who has managed to put The Great American Desert in a nutshell.

This has been a real problem, as there are two questions that people invariably ask me about the book.  On is, ‘How long did it take to write?’ for which there is no easy answer, and the other is, ‘What’s it about?’ which is even harder.  I’ve been experimenting with various answers to the latter question, and so far haven’t come up with anything that doesn’t wander off and double back on itself, much like the way I write, until my poor interlocutor probably wishes he’d asked something easier, like ‘How many words long is it?’  It’s something over 87,000 words long, and the author may be the wrong person to ask for a summary.  In any case, here’s what my reader wrote:


In one sentence, the book is about love and love’s role in the fabric of time.  There’s other stuff, farming and all, and “love” is probably too restrictive (add compassion, empathy, imagination, etc.).  It’s the idea that an emotion can collapse the vastness of time into a connection, creating a mental wormhole to the past, future, or even the present.  Love is the most powerful glue linking one moment to the next, or one age to another.

             Either that, or it’s about green paint.


If I could sum things up that concisely, I would write short stories instead of novels.  Or maybe even just bumper sticker slogans.  But I can’t, so I write novels.  If anyone else would care to let me know what my 87,000 words are about, I would love to hear from you.