Life is Messy by Dan Holloway
I don't do drumrolling announcements, but after a long hiatus, my literary novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is available for Kindle again. You will have sensed the soul-searching of the past few months. I am working my way through my books, editing and formatting, and I am very happy to be bringing them back into the world. And am comfortable with them being on Amazon. I may write about this at some stage. I may not.
(the UK link is here, and the US link is here. The book is available in all other places as well. It's $2.99 or equivalent)
Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is a blog run by the book's protagonist, Sandrine, a teenager growing up in Hungary in the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. She lives with her father and cat in a huge house on the vineyard that's been in the family for hundreds of years, and dreams of one day escaping, first to the metropolis of Budapest to be an artist, and then to the west, to find the English mother who walked out on her shortly after she was born. In the meanwhile her blog is her window on the world. Through it she gets involved in the wider landscapes of music and politics, forming a friendship with a singer called Michael, who runs a charity website and a band. When Michael asks her to support the band at a concert to celebrate Romania's accession to the EU, she is caught up in teh middle of a nationalist riot and a single act of violence begins to unravel her life.
Since then, it's something I've come to think about even more, and the question of how we define ourselves, where our identity "is" and in what it consists, has come to dominate my work. I have never liked the idea of hierarchies, and binaries lend themselves insidiously well to the creation of hierarchies - "I choose this over that" turns to "I prefer this over that" turns to "I dismiss that as being inferior." And binaries can never do justice to the simple messiness of life. "I" am not a neatly lined-up set of tick box options and never can be. What I tick in one box radically alters all the other boxes. More than that, what you tick in one box might alter all of my boxes.
I wrote Songs before intersectionality had become such a widespread hot button topic, but ultimately this is a book about intersectionality. Sandrine is female. And she's gay. But she's also white and her lover is Chinese. Each of these matters but none of them is a fixed point. "Sandrine" is a fluid thing, a set of messy sensual experiences and perceptions of the world that vary in perspective from minute to minute, place to place, and company to company. Understanding these things is essential to understanding Sandrine, but for Sandrine herself the most important realisation of all is that "understanding" has to take a back seat to "living."
Why? Am I just being my usual contrary self?
Maybe. Or maybe the book itself should do all the heavy lifting.