“Great writing doesn’t think outside the box. It never knew what the box was in the first place”
— Dan Holloway
I never really understood boxes. It’s cost me a lot through the years. “Boxes” are — by definition — definitive. Definitions tend to be social in nature. I’ve had a complex relationship with society for most of my life. My inability to recognize “boxes” comes from my inability to accept social constraints in the first place. This can prove costly. If you don’t like the “success” that comes in the box, you can work very hard inside the box and never be happy.
A young friend of mine told me something very interesting. He told me certain young women didn’t seem “hot” to him until he heard his friends — in private — pointing out how “hot” they were. He’d take a second look and see the females in a new light. He found himself suddenly agreeing that yes, they were “hot.” It wasn’t just social pressure: The awareness of their “hotness” to others actually caused a physical reaction in him. He was attracted to them physically — biologically — but only after their attractiveness was endorsed by his peer group.
That’s the power of the “box.” His peer group was a defined box. That box had defined other boxes, some more worthy than others. Boxes.
And — as a better writer once said — so it goes.
But what happens when you don’t have that social group to tell you what’s good and attractive and seemly? Well, then things get difficult. You don’t have popular definitions of “success” to strive towards. There are no guidelines. You need to make it up as you go along and hope it gets you someplace suitable, if not entirely comfortable.
That’s the story of my life.
Eye of the Diamond-T doesn’t fit into any specific box. I didn’t write it that way just to be difficult. I honestly can’t do what other people do. I grew up without any box to fit into. If there was a box when I was growing up, it didn’t look like a box. It looked more like a Klein Bottle or something — some impossible geometric shape offered up as a thought-exercise intended to show a student the limitations of geometry itself. “The point is that you shouldn’t put too much faith in geometry, but hope you have fun with this!” it seemed to say.
Thus, Diamond-T is an impossible geometric shape that defies easy genre classification. It’s a romance, a spy/conspiracy story, a mystery, a coming-of-age story, a spiritual journey, a commentary of the political and social atmosphere of America in the ’50s, and a nostalgia trip. If there’s a “box” that all fits into, I think that “box” is called Eye of the Diamond-T.
And although it might not qualify as “great writing,” it’s what I had to do.
And I hope you enjoy it.