The Novel

By Brian Swann

Featured Art: Icebound by John Henry Twachtman

In the novel I’m writing there are no people, no “characters.” And if you expect a plot you’ll be sorely disappointed. There’s little to count on and precious little to critique. Beautiful language is absent; there is almost no language of any sort so you won’t see any reviews praising its style or humanity.

In my novel, each place is the same as any other place so there can be no confusion about where you are. The novel builds to no denouement because there is no nouement. And there are no epiphanies unless the reader realizes that not having one is something of an epiphany in itself. Symbols are everywhere these days so there are none in my novel. The storyline consists simply of turning a page which can be thought of as a narrative in itself. If the novel has more than a page this could present something of a problem. And if you’re looking for something that passes or wisdom this isn’t the place, though I do think I have retained a sense of adventure simply as a consequence of sequence. So here goes, though my novel, unlike any other novel I can think of, is very short so as not to test the reader’s powers of concentration and patience. As I said, there are no characters. The world is overpopulated as it is, so why make matters worse? Perhaps I should stop right here. There may be too many people, but there are certainly too few trees.


Brian Swann’s new poetry collection, In Late Light, has just been published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Soon the University of Nebraska Press will publish his Sky Loom: Native American Myth, Story, Song.

Originally appeared in NOR 14.

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