‘My success….will be based totally on the reaction of my readers, who really are the writers ultimate opponents.’
Texas writer Jason Graff has published fiction, poetry and essays widely in journals around the world. His latest novel Stray Our Pieces (see details below) will be published October 15th with Waldorf Publishing. It is described as a ‘literary fiction novel‘ and is based around the life of Gloria, a frustrated and unfulfilled housewife, who ‘struggles to even fantasize about escape‘ from a life that she has inadvertently created for herself.
Jason has written a piece for us today entitled ‘The Game I Try to Play’ so I do you hope you enjoy!
[ About the Book ]
Gloria Hytner has managed to raise a son intelligent and sensitive enough to be the prime target of the neighborhood bully. David seeks solace from her, but her acerbic wit is all she can pass on to him. She had once been well on her way to becoming a crusading attorney, but a personal tragedy forced her to drop out of law school. Now stuck in her dreary suburban existence, she struggles to even fantasize about escape until the day David unexpectedly exacts revenge on his bully, giving Gloria the courage to set herself free. Family ties are not broken so much as stretched into something new.
[ Guest Post ]
The Game I Try to Play
by Jason Graff
In order to become proficient or even good at something, I’ve learned to endure an interval, sometime an agonizingly long one, of being bad at it. For example, I love playing pool and chess despite the fact that I’m not much good at either. I might even be the worst pool player on Earth. This is no exaggeration. As my high school geometry teacher would attest, I’m terrible with angles. I lack touch. My depth perception is that of a mole wearing but a single contact lens. It’s a miracle that I’ve figured out which is the cue end of the stick.
I got my MFA from Goddard College, a small liberal arts school in Vermont. Were the twenty-five or so aspiring writers with whom I started the program to be ranked, I can confidently say, I would’ve been in the low to mid-twenties. Because we all shared our work and talked to each other incessantly about books and writing, I thought I could tell who really knew what they were talking about. The one thing these seemingly knowledgeable classmates all agreed on was that plots were a device to be done away with, if one wanted their work to come close to some deeper human truth. Plot got in the way. Plot was for commercial novels. Plot was the enemy to be avoided. If I was to be thought of as hip and intelligent and cutting edge, if I was to shed my lower to mid-twenties ranking, it seemed imperative that I join these fellow writers in avoiding plot and eventually, dare we dream, killing it through neglect. There was a happy coincidence in all of this as, though I’d been writing for years and had even gotten deep into the writing of a book or two, I had no facility with plot at all.
In my recent novel Stray Our Pieces, I have been careful in how I handle plot. On the surface, as some of my reviewers have noted, there isn’t much of one. Instead, I’ve tucked what one would normally think of the plot under the surface. Without giving anything away, the rising action that would count as a plot goes on the background and happens largely despite or even in spite of the main character’s actions. Her relationship to these events is largely tangential until the moment they culminate in a sort of denouement, and only then is her relationship to them made clear. I suppose the question now is “why?.” Why would a man who struggles with angles and plotting attempt to do something like this with his book. I suppose part of the answer would be that I’m still not confident in my plotting skills and though I find my old classmates views to be naïve and wrong-headed, I remain skeptical of things that are overly plotty.
The other part of the answer lies in my love for another game, which I am slightly better at than pool: chess. I started playing on-line only a few years ago and in that time have gone from being laughably bad to just short of mediocre. It did help me with plot a great deal, as chess is more or less simply the anticipation of your opponent’s thinking and the use of their expectations against them.
When I started, I was regularly embarrassed by opponents who chatted on the side as they throttled me. I needed only to learn I was being comprehensively slaughtered by an 8 year-old a few times before I deactivated the chat feature. Back then, I was frequently beaten in a few moves without knowing the danger I was in until it was checkmate. Even today, vastly superior opponents, which are only slightly more difficult to find than they once were, will handily put my king in grave danger long, too long, before I realize what’s really happening. There I am, making my moves, developing my board, looking for my opening, while they’re playing an entirely different and more effective game; the true nature of which I do not discover until it is far too late. Though beaten, I find a kind of charm or wonderment in being embarrassed in this way. I go back through the moves to find when our games diverged and often find it was but a single mistake on my part, maybe two that gave them the opening.
This kind of surprise is what I hoped to spring on readers of Stray. I want that moment of climax to be truly invigorating enough for them to go back and try to pick out the narrative arc from the pages they’ve already read. I wanted to write something that they would want to re-read, something that rewarded close reading. And like chess, my success in this will be based totally on the reaction of my readers, who really are the writers ultimate opponents.
Purchase Link (Amazon.com) – Stray Our Pieces
[ What people are saying…. ]
“A tightly constructed psychodrama of suburban angst, a coming-of-self saga that explores the gradual unravelling of suppressed beliefs and ideas
. . . Graff’s entertaining novel is highly attuned to the subtle witty rhythms of everyday speech and saturated with the pleasures of reading and the pains of not-reading. An emotionally charged and engaging yawp of quotidian panic.”
– M.J. Nicholls, author of A Postmodern Belch, The House of Writers, The Quiddity of Delusion and The 1002nd Book to Read Before You Die
“A challenging, thoughtful story about what it’s like when you chafe at the role society assigns you, but that role is also your whole life.” – David Valdes Greenwood, author of The Rhinestone Sisterhood: A Journey Through Small Town America One Tiara at a Time and Revengers
[ Bio ]
Jason Graff has been writing since he was 14. He loves both reading and producing writing that has a strong, clear voice and conveys a deep connection to the characters. He has published fiction, poetry and essays widely in journals around the world.
In the Service of the Boyar (Vagabondage Press, ’16) was his debut novella. He has two novels slated for publication: heckler (Unsolicited Press) and Stray Our Pieces (Waldorf Publishing). His short stories, poems and essays have been published in numerous publications.
He lives in Richardson, TX with his wife, son and cat.
Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47555497-stray-our-pieces