* Welcome to The Big Jewel, home of the great American novel. And also this less-than-great novel by Stan Hughes. But even if there's not a great story in the novel, there's a great story behind the novel.

My Novel

By: Stan Hughes

“Stop texting, dammit!” The Wife says. I reply, with a flash of artistic temper, that I’m not “texting,” I’m writing my novel.

“On an iPhone? You’re not writing any goddamned novel, you’re texting your old girlfriend, you big fat liar!”

I send myself an email: “New Chapter: text old girlfriend for ideas.” After a bit of reflection, I add, “tell Wife dress does make her look fat.”

The Wife (I forget her name) should have more faith. I am indeed writing a novel on my iPhone. It’s going to be great. Really. I don’t want to brag about how great it’s going to be, but it’s going to be really great. Fantastic.

I don’t have an outline, or notes. Don’t need ’em. Notes and outlines are for sissies. Have you ever heard of a French novelist named Marcel Proust? Wrote a long multivolume cycle of novels called The Remembrance of Things Past? Had tons of outlines, and a trainload of notes? Well, he was a sissy.

So, you already knew about Proust the Sissy and his sissy novel, didn’t you? In fact, you probably even lied to your French Lit major girlfriend about reading it, didn’t you? Unless you’re the girlfriend — and you didn’t read it either, but you subtly let your boyfriend know that you knew he was lying, but that you loved him so much that you were going to pretend he read it, didn’t you? Well, I’ll go you one better: I read the whole damn thing and lied to my girlfriend anyway — I told her I hadn’t read it.

(Email to self: text old girlfriend and confess to lying about reading Proust’s sissy novel. Pepper with quotes from Swann’s Way. Mock her master’s thesis.)

Nobody wants to read long novels anymore, at least long novels without vampires or wizards. I don’t have any of those. I’m a serious novelist, dammit! My novel’s going to be vampire-free and great and the damn vampires can go sit on a wooden stake. I don’t care what the wizards sit on.

I don’t have a plot for the novel yet. Or characters. Or a movie deal. What have I got? Got chapter titles! Got pithy quotes for the chapter headings! Let’s just run it down…

CHAPTER ONE: Jesus Is Weeping

“Jesus Wept.” (Gospel of St. Luke, Ch. 3, vs. 31)

I’m not sure what happens in this chapter yet, but this quote is killah!! How can I go wrong with a start like that?! Does this guy St. Luke have an agent? Because this book of his could be really commercial if he just added a vampire or two — he’s already got this cool Jesus guy in there. If he needs a little help, I know a novelist who’s available.

CHAPTER TWO: The Dead Don’t Drive

“Never trust a man in a blue trench coat / never drive a car when you’re dead.” — Tom Waits, “Telephone Call From Istanbul”

Pretty standard road safety advice, but the blue trench coat is way cool and damn enigmatic. Trust issues are involved, which is good. Helps that it takes place in Istanbul — that’s definitely going in.

CHAPTER THREE: The American Railroad Tradition

“The midnight train is whining low / I’m so lonesome I could cry.” — Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”

When you’re lonesome and blue, Hank, the last thing you want to do is board some self-indulgent, high-maintenance, whiny train. Take a plane, Hank. Also: hey, Amtrak — just suck it up already, nobody wants to hear about it. Stop whining. There, I said it.

CHAPTER FOUR: The Gathering Storm

“Aww…baby where’d you stay last night? ‘Cause your hair all tangled and you ain’t talkin’ right.” — Robert Johnson, “32-20 Blues”

This one was a shocker. What does hair care have to do with diction? Well, Mr. Johnson’s got it covered! As an experiment, I surreptitiously mussed my wife’s hair with a chopstick while she was on the phone with my old girlfriend. Astounding results! Her speech instantly became garbled, scrambling English with lower Slobbovian or something and producing some truly classic gibberish: “Herro, splidep? Rijish the basnerd, and neblif fremmic if he ever radenour ectbevis again. Rogasazm?” That Robert Johnson was a hell of a songwriter!

Four chapters so far. Maybe I should add another one. Naah — I hate long novels.

Anyway, thanks to Doc Johnson, I’ve got three characters: Herro Splidep, Rijish the Basnerd, and Radenour Ectbevis (I had to write Neblif Fremmic out). Got a setting — Istanbul! Got action — Herro, Rijish, and Radenour dodging cars driven by trench-coated, big-haired zombie spies, while Jesus looks down from above, bawling his eyes out.

(Hmm…all the quotes but the first one are musical. Maybe I should change it to “Jesus Sang?” No, if I do that, St. Luke’s agent will be all over me, and litigation will just slow me down. I’m a novelist, not a lawyer, so I’ll just let Jesus weep — the sissy.)

That’s all you need to know about my novel. I don’t have a title yet, but it will be a great title. And a great title means a great novel! And of course the novel will be great — after all, it’s my novel.

Look for it in fine bookstores everywhere, except the one The Ex-Wife works in.