Wednesday, November 23, 2011


During Sunday's scattershot research, I found an epigraph for the new book, from the Book of Enoch (one of the non-canonical, pseudepigraphical biblical books):

"For men were not born for this,
thus with pen and with ink
to confirm their faith."
—Enoch 68:13

An epigraph, as you may know, is that little quote or aphorism you find on a page by itself before the main text begins. I was chuckling about putting the cart before the horse by picking one before writing word one of the book, but as Kendra points out I really have no idea when or how other writers choose their epigraphs. They might do what I have done, or they might wait to select one until the publisher has sent them their page proofs, or one might leap upon them from the bushes anywhere in between. (Writers, please share!) I like to settle on one early, to keep my mind from wandering.

For The Slow Palace — which was a long, difficult slog, and at times began giving off the stink of abandonment — having an epigraph I really liked was one of the things that drew me back to the book. (The other was an early scene with a strigil, which kept coming insistently to mind when I was dashing the water from my body after showering.) Here's The Slow Palace's epigraph:

"And time will never end,

for it is always at a beginning."

Aristotle, Physics

That stayed constant through massive changes to the book's structure, characters, and plot; it served as a touchstone for what I wanted to say when everything else was changing. It doesn't bear a one-to-one relation to anything in the book, and indeed might prove baffling even to those who've read it, but it was a reminder of what made me excited about the work in the first place, a little chip of mood and tone from a particular moment at the beginning of things. For the new book, I'll be able to look up at the white wall above my iMac and see the quote from Enoch floating there, and maybe it'll keep me on course.

One minor problem: different versions of Enoch seem to use different numbering schemes. The verse above is 68:13 in Richard Laurence's 1883 translation, but 69:10 in R.H. Charles's 1917 translation. Anyone who knows how to properly cite Enoch, I'd be delighted to find out in the comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment