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Sleeping with the Minotaur

Posted on 2006.08.05 at 17:22

It’s been a month since I’ve posted here, the longest interval since I started this exploration. In the interim CRUCIFER was rejected by an editor, after being tied up for nearly two years. The long months were agonizing, but in the end turned out to be less of a curse than a gestation. When I viewed the text with fresh eyes, I could see pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were missing, parts I hadn’t lived yet, and so couldn’t bring back to the story. It was as if during all that time while it sat on a desk, the manuscript was shielding itself from cataract-clouded eyes--unborn, half-formed, waiting for me to splice in the final genes that would start the DNA transcription, the ephemeral trigger sequence that would bring it to life. And so I began to revise the manuscript. New scenes were added, a new character took the stage, and details revealed themselves like the whorls of a fingerprint. It was reborn, not as a misshapen thing, but a creature independent of its creator, a creature that could stand on its own. Now, I have sent it into the world under the guardianship of my agent. I feel like a parent watching a teacher lead my child away on the first day of kindergarten. Into your hands I commit my dream...

Shortly before I made the revisions, I read House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. It brought to mind the tag line of the Lovecraftian homage, "In the Mouth of Madness" by John Carpenter–"Lived any good books lately?" The brilliant, reality-subverting, hypertextual "novel" not only got under my skin, it redefined my understanding of the relationship between the reader, the story, and the creator of that story. House of Leaves took me into the Labyrinth where I came face to face with the Minotaur. That creature, half-beast, half man, veiled in shadow and tellingly with the head of a monster, looked me straight in the eyes. I reached out to touch the monster’s face, and felt a cold, hard sheet of glass.* At the center of the Labyrinth stands a mirror.

There is a footnote in House of Leaves that describes the evolution of an Artist. I found it so insightful that I’ve reprinted it here:

Seven Incarnations of Art:

"There are seven incarnations (and six correlates) necessary to becoming an Artist:

1. Explorer (Courage) 2. Surveyor (Vision) 3. Miner (Strength) 4. Refiner (Patience)

5. Designer (Intelligence) 6. Maker (Experience) 7. Artist.

First you must leave the safety of your home and go into the dangers of the world, whether to an actual territory, or some unexamined aspect of the psyche. This is what is meant by ‘Explorer.’

Next, you must have the vision to recognize your destination once you arrive there. Note that a destination may sometimes also be the journey. This is what is meant by ‘Surveyor.’

Third, you must be strong enough to dig up facts, follow the veins of history, unearth telling details. This is what is meant by ‘Miner.’

Fourth, you must have the patience to winnow and process your material into something rare. This may take months or even years. And this is what is meant by ‘Refiner."

Fifth, you must use your intellect to conceive of your material as something meaning more than its origins. This is what is meant by ‘Designer.’

Six, you must fashion a work independent of everything that has gone before it, including yourself. That is what is meant by ‘Maker.’

At this stage, the work is acceptable. You will be fortunate to have progressed so far. It (sic) assume you are exceptional. Let us assume you are rare. What then does it mean to reach the final incarnation? Only this: at every stage, from 1 thru 6, you will risk more, see more, gather more, process more, fashion more, consider more, love more, suffer more, imagine more and in the end know why less means more and leave what doesn’t and keep what implies and create what matters. This is what is meant by ‘Artist.’" **

I’m kneeling now at the center of the Labyrinth, like a student before a teacher, and the Minotaur’s hot, animal breath streams over my face. My eyes water, my limbs tremble. What new stories will he share?

*An echo from a Lovecraft story, the chilling tale of existential horror, "The Outsider."

**Fictional reference cited in Danielewski’s House of Leaves, p. 420:
The Architecture of Art, Cassandra Rissman LaRue


(Anonymous) at 2006-08-16 03:45 (UTC) (Link)
You have certainly covered all 7 stages, Mr. Muerto. Your dedication amazes me.

Justine Musk
moschus at 2006-08-20 18:05 (UTC) (Link)
Love this entry. I now seriously have to read HOUSE OF LEAVES. Glad to see you're back -- I just sent you an email, actually, in which I asked a couple of questions your blog entry has now answered for me (I've been out of commission for a couple of weeks).

I'm actually rereading the draft you sent me back when -- any chance I could get a copy of the new one?
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