So, the major conceit in the book is that one character jumps forward in time 150 years, fucks up his kid real bad, and then jumps back in time 150 years to have his revenge on the people he thinks didn’t behave as they should have after he fucked up his first family.

At New Year’s, my dad announces that time travel is stupid and not possible, because you can’t exist in a time in which you don’t exist. I tried to argue that once you exist in that time, then you exist in that time, no matter how you got there, but he wasn’t buying it.

But here’s how I’ve been thinking of it. It’s not really a time machine in my manuscript. It’s a much more crude mechanism. You approach a doorway with a certain key. That key opens the door between the time you’re standing in now and one set point a certain distance in the past or present–in other words, if you use that key, the door will open between the time you’re in and the time 150 years from now. Which means, technically, the door never opens on the same time.  If I’m in 1867 and I open the door and I arrive in 1987 (which I guess is actually 120 years, but whatever), if I stay for 20 years, when I go back, it’s 1887. Sure, there may be a key that takes you back to 1867 from 2007, but let’s say that the keys aren’t clearly marked and you never know what’s on the other side of the door. So, the trial and error involved with finding the precise key that would bring you back to the moment from which you left would probably kill you before you found it.

I’ve been imagining it like winding a thick ribbon around a barber pole. The ribbon is time and when you are immersed in it, it appears to be moving forward. Or at least, you appear to be moving forward, through it. But, if you could step outside of it, you’d see that it’s actually moving in a spiral. Yes, the near future is directly ahead of you, but the rest of the future is above you. Same with the past. The recent past is directly behind you, but soon enough it turns and makes its way out of sight, and on beneath you.

So, to my way of thinking, time travel to the recent past or near future would be impossible. But what about the points of time that line up on the same side of the Great Spinning Barber Pole of the Universe? Instead of rolling along, facing into the future, which is on an almost imperceptible incline, you turned and made your way to a different coil and started facing into the future in that one for a time?

The line of your existence from within the timeline would appear broken. But to someone standing outside it, you would appear continuous.

That’s my working model at the moment.


Old Dog is Half-Heartedly Ferocious

Putting the drops in Mrs. W’s ear has been unfun. Not as unfun as tending to the new kitty when she tore her foot open, but unfun. But in a hilarious way. Because, though she really doesn’t like it, she can’t quite bring herself to be full asshole about it. She kind of turns her head quickly like she might bite you and makes a little struggle to get away.

But a stern “Enough” calms her down and she tolerates it.

I think it helps that it’s working. She doesn’t like it–the enzyme solution is more like honey than water–but I think the improvement is major enough that she can tell a difference.

Anyway, she seems in better spirits, so that’s nice.

Strange Things that Make Me Happy

1. Oh, I completely forgot to speculate on the identity of the one anonymous letter writer in the file of letters and petitions written in support of Jack Macon. I forget which book it’s in, but I’ve seen speculation that the writer is Dr. Jack himself. It’s easy to imagine that he’d want to have his say–to explain, even if he had to do it anonymously in order to be taken seriously, what it was he did and why. And once you see that the second petition is about letting Jack Macon practice medicine AND getting any fines William Macon might incur forgiven–once you know that William Macon was like “The law? Fuck it.”–it’s not hard to imagine that he or his parents (Jack seems to have been a few years older than William) might have taught Jack to read and write. But seeing that letter, seeing how formally it’s worded and how beautiful the penmanship is, it’s not the letter of someone, in my opinion, who can read and write. It’s someone who does read and write, very, very well. That’s someone whose reading and writing is being nurtured (even if it’s just at the level of “I will not notice that books are missing from the library.”). It’s so easy to write William Macon off as the asshole. He owned Jack. That’s a huge moral hurdle.

But let’s not downplay the implications of “that letter writer is Jack.” In context, it indicates that William Macon was taking ENORMOUS personal risks. Did he think slavery was wrong? I doubt it. Did he think some things about the practice of slavery was such bullshit that he was willing to break the law? We know he appeared to his neighbors to be in trouble for letting Jack practice medicine, since they wrote to the legislature to try to get him out of trouble.

It’s always more complicated, you know?

2. On my walk this morning, I realized that this first draft, which I’m about ready to stop denying is a draft, reads like someone gossiping about a familiar fairytale. I mean, there are authorial asides, and then there is this manuscript, which is being written like Nashville is a giant church and you and I are in the church kitchen doing dishes after a giant potluck and all the dead women and I are telling you the biggest bullshit story about Reconstruction that we swear is true. And we’re stopping to talk shit about some people and to point out the subtext of things said and to be all judgmental and bitchy about the people we love.

Some of that can’t survive into the second draft, I know. But just getting it out is nice.