In a story by Henry James, The Middle Years, his character, a writer, laments: “We live in the dark, we do what we can, the rest is the madness of art.” Or words to that effect.
I think James is saying that there is a dark part of our art, which puts us in a class with gamblers who shoot pool or bet at cards or even shuffle a pea under walnut shells. For the courageous writers who take risks, rather than churning out the same old shit, there is gambling going on. To devote a year or more to a project, never knowing if it will produce any significant fruit, is gambling. An example would be Truman Capote, who spend six years wandering around Kansas, never knowing if he had a book or not. The final result, of course, was In Cold Blood, which was a new art form—the nonfiction novel. He gambled and won.
I bring this up because my last gamble turned out to be a bust. Over the course of three years, I wrote six novella length stories, and gathered them in an anthology entitled Buddha’s Bad Boys. Each story stood on their own, yet, all six together formed a novel because of reoccurring characters and themes. I’m proud of what I accomplished with this effort, yet sales have been disappointing. I can’t even get people to review it.
I don’t know if the title turns readers off—many Christians shun anything regarding the Buddha or Islam—or if readers are not interesting in an anthology of short works. I suppose there could be other reasons, but for the life of me I can’t comprehend them. What is most discouraging is that I feel those six stories are some of my best writing, yet I can’t get readers interested in them.
So, sometimes you win, sometimes you bust, and it’s all part of the madness within the madness of art.