The following is a synopsis of my novel in progress, Housebreaking the Muse. Watch for excerpts over the coming months.
Housebreaking the Muse
Housebreaking the Muse traces the unlikely intersection of Ray Burke, recent MA in comparative literature from a large university in Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania; Jacques Rigaut, the French dadaist, poet, gigolo, drug addict, and suicide; and Père Ubu, a minor figure in the pantheon of literary characters. Having relocated to Somerville, Massachusetts to join his wife, Burke’s highest ambition is to land a job as “a functionary at a large, private university in Cambridge.” His plans take a detour, however, after an encounter on JFK Boulevard with a fleeting apparition who, it seems to Burke, presents a disturbing mirror image. Little does Burke know that the apparition is none other than the time-traveling Rigaut, guided his way by self-proclaimed “second rate deity” Père Ubu. Ubu seeks to reward Burke for “Ubu Reformé,” a play Burke published in the obscure litmag “Approximate Volume,” which transformed Ubu from the boorish tyrant of Alfred Jarry’s proto-Dada plays into the erudite, chatty, and refined meddler whose voice animates Muse. By sending him Rigaut, Ubu hopes hopes to inspire Burke to a translation of Rigaut’s collected works and thereby rescue him from a bout of apathy, cynicism, and disillusionment brought on by an overdose of theoretical claptrap suffered in grad school. Ubu also hopes, through Burke’s translation and related work, to reclaim the largely ignored figure of Jacques Rigaut for posterity. Ubu believes Rigaut’s art of self-reincarnation more important than ever in an age that’s become self-numbing and deaf to the kind of atrocity the old Ubu used to represent. As Burke becomes obsessed with the shadowy Rigaut, however, Ubu comes to have second thoughts about the plan he’s set in motion.
Rollicking, dark, comic, and contemplative, Housebreaking the Muse sniffs out the nature of the creative act, cross-examines the mythos of inspiration, and sifts the debris of the twentieth-century.