I have no idea. You tell me.
When I heard that Coke Newell’s new novel On the Road to Heaven won several awards, I was excited to read it.
But then I read the little subtitle thingie: “an autobiographical novel.” And I knew I was in trouble.
How, pray tell, do you read an autobiographical novel? I wasn’t sure but I dug in anyway. As I started to read, I felt like I was looking at one of those optical illusions where it first looks like a vase but will look like two faces in profile if you focus differently. And then you get a headache.
But I tried to stick with it, reminding myself that there has never been a novel without some elements of autobiography and there’s probably never been an autobiography without some tarted up parts, so we all might as well act like grown ups and admit it. Perhaps this work would force me to confront my unexamined assumptions as a reader and draw out of me some complex realizations on the conveyance of truth (or not) and my role as a reader in aiding (or not) the writer in constructing reality.
Nope. This did not work. I couldn’t make it through a page without feeling like I was in a foreign city without a map. Because the rules are different. From a novel, I expect things like well-developed characters, well-paced plotting and a nice, lush narrative arc. In an autobiography, not so much; the power of an autobiography comes from its truthiness (I know, I know).
So I just couldn’t read it. I don’t know how to read it. But I’m open to suggestions.