“My book will be praised by highbrows and can be read by lowbrows…”-Ernest Hemingway (about In Our Time).
Well, I know I ain’t no Hemingway. Nor Joyce or Greene or Lawrence or Woolf or any of those giants. No delusions of grandeur here. But I believe l accomplished what I intended with House of Large Sizes. On my last editorial read-through I found that I liked it; it was a book I wanted to read. That was the first time I had felt that way about it, and I grew more confident that most literary readers will praise it, and that readers of popular fiction will find it a page-turner. Of course, I hope that graduate students will study it at some point; it is after all meant for them.
Why is it meant for them? Because it’s loaded with a lifetime of study about the form and content of the novel, and the form and content which underlies an author’s expression of the culture that produced him. It’s loaded with Lord Raglan, Robert Graves, Percy Lubbock, E.M. Forster, Eric Auerbach, Carl Jung, Northrup Frye, Joseph Campbell, Rolande Barthes; a perpetual orgy of influences from the dead white males who as yet have not been surpassed. None of them will emerge in the reading; they are intended to turn to milk in the flow of the exposition.
In my previous blog about Dunkirk I mentioned the hero’s journey, an age-old, seminal structure popularized by Joseph Campbell, which reflects most of our stories in an attempt to mirror our sometimes humdrum lives. I mentioned “Piggybank” (a story in my short story collection The Wounded), which was constructed in an episodic circle, self-contained, and able to be consumed in one sitting; the diametric opposite, let’s say, of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
House of Large Sizes was a challenge because I wanted to write a big novel about the hero’s journey that ordinary readers could lose themselves within, but that would also be recognized for its ambitions by specialists in mythic structure. I loved the hard work it took to outwit the opposing forces in my own psyche, which pull me on the one side toward intellectualism and on the other toward popularism. I hope I have successfully unified all my bits here and that you will enjoy my House of Large Sizes.