This Is A Lesson To Us All
Posted by Literary Titan
Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here follows a lonely rancher on a contemplative journey that explores our idea of God and how we can become servile to that idea. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The initial spark of this story came from driving through the same Oregon High Desert that’s depicted in the novel. It’s a lonely stretch of highway. The kind where significant chunks of time can pass without seeing another car. This produces an immense loneliness. But oddly it’s sort of a euphoric loneliness, especially if you’re the kind that can appreciate the beauty that a high desert has to offer, because it makes you feel like you’re the only one alive. And, if you’re inclined to believe in god, it makes you feel closer to him/her/it. It makes you feel special.
So, the idea of putting a character out there on the edge of the horizon sat around in my mind for quite some time. Then, as I began to read and teach authors like Kafka, Sartre, Camus, and Dostoyevsky, I became fascinated by absurdism, existentialism, and the like. The specific idea that became the driving force behind Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here is the clarification Jean-Paul Sartre provided for existentialism in a famous speech turned essay titled Existentialism Is a Humanism. It was there that he outlined that people traditionally believed that our essence precedes our existence, meaning that the idea and purpose of human beings was conceived in a creator’s mind before we were born. Existentialism posits that the order is reversed, that we exist and then it is us who determines our essence.
I wanted to critique the traditional religious view of that debate by showing the dangers of thinking god has ordained all that you do. Historically, there has been a lot of pain caused by this idea, especially because it’s so difficult to rid yourself of once the idea takes root. I believe it to still be one of the biggest cancers in modern American culture.
Dale Samuel is an interesting character. What were some driving ideals behind his character’s development?
Toughness and self-sufficiency are probably Dale’s two defining characteristics. And although Dale is rather rough around the edges from the beginning, those characteristics give him a nobility that I think readers can respect. He is in some ways an ode to the kinds of hardworking, rural people that can be found in the wide-open spaces of Idaho and Oregon and, of course, the rest of “Middle America”.
Eventually, Dale’s toughness and self-sufficiency work against him, as it does with many of us stereotypically stubborn Americans, because he thinks he can figure everything out by himself. Or, when rather humble and undecided, he tends to go with his gut instinct to break the tie. It’s through this type of thinking that I critique all of us who find the meaning in life’s events that we desire to exist. We create our own meaning but think that we’ve discovered god’s, which creates a sense of elation that few recover from.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Demonstrating the flaws of thinking our essence precedes our existence is the central theme, which is why the novel is told non-linearly and why there is no real inciting incident. I attempted to marry content and form by having the reader witness events in Dale’s life without knowing why they were happening. The why, or the essence, comes after the event as you piece things together. So, that theme dictated not only what the novel is about but also how I constructed it and sequenced the final product.
Another more subtle theme, that’s also prevalent in my first novel Ways and Truths and Lives, is the idea that everyone possesses little bits of relevant truths. If we pay attention to all of Dale’s encounters, all the people he comes into contact with dispense tiny fragments of wisdom. Wisdom that could have saved Dale a lot of trouble if he wasn’t so headstrong. This is a lesson to us all, and through it I try to celebrate the idea of democracy merged with the more Eastern idea of multisided truth.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have a third novel idea that is now mostly in note form, although a few practice chapters have been drafted. It will center on a priest who has lost his faith and a whole host of characters that come to him for guidance. The book, as I see it now, will center on how the church (at large, not specifically Catholicism) represses our sexuality in unhealthy ways. That project is, however, probably several years away.
What you’ll most likely see from me first is a book of poetry, which I hope to have fairly ready after I finish my master’s in creative writing (2024). The bulk of my poetry centers on the idea that absent and/or delinquent fathers are a perfect metaphor for a god, assuming one exists, that has abandoned us (i.e., the Christian god).
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