After dragging you through the hell of writing a memoir this past year, I thought I’d spend the next year dragging you through the hell of writing a novel, an undertaking of which Flannery O’Connor had this to say: “Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay.” The memoir already did my hair in, and a childhood of Kedem wine took care of my teeth; if I finish this book with my genitals attached, I figure I’m ahead of the game.* * *First of all, it’s going to be a novel. No more of this short-story crap, or “memoirs.” Dirty laundry, you mean! I’m bigger than memoirs now. And it’s going to be a big novel, I don’t mind telling you that right off—and I don’t just mean in regard to page-count, though it will be that, too, it will definitely be that. I’m thinking 8, maybe 900 pages, not including the prologue and the epilogue (and there’ll be some maps in the front, too, those little black and white, poorly illustrated maps with the illegible town names, and a sea and maybe the journey of the protagonist marked with dotted line—you are going to need maps to follow this book, people!), divided not just into chapters, but into books—books! Book One, Book Two, Book Three—it takes three books of normal men to equal just one book of mine, that’s what I’m saying. I might even call them Book the First and Book the Second; it depends on whether I’m going to go for the whole Victorian thing, but I do like the way that sounds. Hey, maybe I’ll do volumes? Holy shit—volumes. Yes, I like that. “A three volume novel by the author of Foreskin’s Lament.” Hot damn! Make it four. It’s going to be a box set of four handsomely clothbound volumes. But it’s also going to be a big book culturally speaking, an important book. An important Book, actually, with a capital B. Maybe I’ll do that, too, capitalize things indiscriminately. Yes, I think I Will. But I want to be very clear about this before I commit even one word to paper: this novel is going to be an earthquake, a seismic shift in the history of American letters, a clarion call, or maybe a wake-up call, or maybe both of those types of calls. These are some of the subjects it is going to touch upon:Faith\nFamily\nHumanity\nGlobal Warming\nHatred\nAngst\nSexuality\nConsciousness\nWar\nPeace\nMan’s inhumanity to man\nPolitics\nThe fall of the West\nThe rise of the East\nOccidentalism\nOrientalism\nHomosexuality\nTransgenderism\nMortality\nStem cell research\n“Dolly,” that cloned goat or whatever she was\nWittgenstein (I’ll have to Google that one)\nHegel (Her, too)That sounds like a lot, but I’ve got 1,000 pages to fill, and six volumes, so I think I can swing it. I know what you’re thinking: “But will it be an insightful, oftentimes humorous examination of contemporary culture and mores?” Yes. I don’t see how, with a list like that, it can fail to be anything else. A word here about style: lots! It will definitely be literary—no sense writing 1,200 pages without getting a little literary credibility—but it will also strike a balance between the elevated and the commonplace. Yes, it will “strike a balance,” I guarantee that. It’s going to strike the hell out of a balance. That sounds difficult, but it isn’t. It’s pretty easy. For example, I could have written, “That sounds hard.” But I used “difficult.” I was striking a balance. If I was really going all-out for elevated, I might have used “it is not” instead of “it’s not,” but you see there how I have managed to walk a fine line between the two by using (“Employing!” Ha!) the word “difficult” as well as the contraction “it’s.” Yes, I will “manage to walk a fine line.” Also, I’ll walk a fine line between comedy and tragedy. And pathos and something else, I’m not sure what yet. I’d like to add a few subjects to my previous list:Africa\nChild fighters\nGun control\nCultural imperialism\nAbsurdism\nRealism\nThe failure of language\nMemes (?)\nThe abuse of power\nThe poor\nViolence\nThe inability to understand ourselves even as we struggle to understand each anotherThe most important thing, of course, is to put the reader first, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Here’s a list of everything I would like the reader to think about me:1. “That Auslander, he is very clever.”\n2. “All modern American literature comes from one book by Shalom Auslander named (TBD).”\n3. “What a fantastic movie that book by Auslander will make.”\n4. “I should forgive that Auslander for not being the son I wanted.”I’m pretty sure a 1,600-page, seven-volume set can accomplish all that and more—for the reader, I mean—assuming I have the right blurbs. DeLillo would be good, so would Pynchon. You’re not going to get me into an argument over the merits of Pynchon’s books, because I haven’t read any of them, but there’s no arguing that some of them are just incredibly big, as big as Tolstoy’s. He’s dead, unfortunately, but maybe I can get someone to mention him in the blurb. If you’re going to write a blurb for me, do me a favor and mention Tolstoy. You can also mention Dostoyevsky, and Kafka, but if you’re going to mention Kafka, please make it clear that what you’re noticing is the similarity of our prophetic visions of man’s struggle against forces that he can neither fathom nor control, and don’t mention the Jew thing, because if I’m going to write a 2,000-page, nine-volume novel, I don’t want people thinking it’s just for Jews. Not that there’s anything wrong with Jews, it’s just that there’s not that many of us. Let’s be honest, just between us Jews—how many of you have read novels about Muslims? The Lefties, maybe, and that’s mostly out of guilt, but not the rest of you. That’s all I’m saying. Two billion Muslims is a market I simply can’t afford to ignore, and there’s a bunch of Christians around, too, so let’s give the Jew thing a rest. Also, the whole “God” thing. I’ve written two books about God now, and I think it’s time to move on. Who knows how many novels Spinoza had inside him? I’d say a bunch, but he just couldn’t drop the God crap. Sad, really. Philosophy’s cool, but it doesn’t get you the respect a novel does. After all, as D.H. Lawrence once said, “The novel is the highest form of human expression so far attained.” And as Stendahl once said, “A novel is a mirror carried along a high road.” And as Robert Musil once said, “The novel is called upon like no other art form to incorporate the intellectual content of the age.” Novels are the shit, that’s my point, and you can tell because so many people say so many quotable things about them, and mine is going to be all these things—the highest form of human expression AND a mirror carried along a high road AND an art form that incorporates the intellectual content of the age—and, at 2,500 pages and 17 volumes, it’s going to be more of those things than any other book. Of course, Flannery O’Connor said, “Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay”—but that was probably just the lupus talking. Don’t get me wrong—I have no illusions that writing this novel will be a trying experience. But I’ve got my How to Write a Damn Good Novel, my How to Write a Damn Good Novel 2, my Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, my On Writing, my The First Five Pages, my Plot and Structure, my Character, Emotion and Viewpoint, my Description and Setting, and my How to Write a Novel in 21 Days, so while it may be a difficult 21 days (make it 25, since it is going to be 3,000 pages and 22 volumes), at the end, I’ll have a novel. And a big one, too.Shalom Auslander is the author of Foreskin’s Lament and the novel Hope: A Tragedy. He is also a frequent contributor to This American Life.