The fiction I’ve been writing over the past decade is about the day-to-day pathos of love between married people. During the past several years, close to 20 of my friends and family members have had to deal with infidelity and other versions of crumbling love. It’s very likely that for every marriage challenged by affairs and anomie, there are probably another 20-30 other couples out there either headed in the same direction or struggling with the humdrum day-to-day of children, jobs, mortgages, commuting, shopping, and periodic, hurried, and quite periodic sex.
Every bit of my prose is informed by the emotional lives around me. I am currently shopping seven different stories about infidelity and obsession to literary publications everywhere. The main theme of these stories is that love is tragic but somehow desire is still life affirming. This is a cynical view of married life in America, but to a certain extent it describes the reality.
Out there as well is a manuscript for a novel I wrote about suburban sexual intrigue that is both amoral and pathetic. My intent was for the reader to come away in pain, pondering why life’s beauty still made it possible to go on finding meaning in living. Yes, so far the book has been rejected by three agents and two small publishers. I’m proud of my work on it though. It’s kind of Henry Miller meets John Cheever in post-9/11 America (at least, that was my intention). I feel that it's honest and true and the writing reflects this.
Something’s happened in my own life though. My children have grown up. The youngest is 14. In the past year my wife and I have been able to spend a frighteningly huge amount of time alone together. The pressure of raising a family is off us. We each have gone through soul-searching transitions that were not easy. Our own partnership was challenged. We realize now that we have struggled together for at least the past decade. Maybe longer. But in the last six months we have grown closer and closer. In the past month we’ve become like two young lovers again. I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say, I’ve learned there can be happy endings; or, rather, in our early 50s maybe we should say happy new trails can indeed lead off into the sunrise of mature and tested love.
But now I’ve got a real problem. I don’t see love so cynically anymore. I see hope and I see redemption for those of us heading into these last phases of our lives. I want to share this new revelation with all my friends and readers. Most surely this will pop up in future stories I write. But for now, the dilemma I face is whether I need to go back into the stories I have floating around out there, particularly my novel manuscript, and rewrite them to reflect my newfound zest for living and my hope for all married couples once giddy for each other everywhere.
It’s not clear what I should do. Tragic, cynical, amoral characters and stories have a lot of traction in this modern crazy sickened world. Shifting gears so abruptly back toward the notion that love conquers all (which I firmly believe is true) would certainly mean major re-writes, but it could also mean that my stories go out there designed to enhance life rather than depict it as tragic and inevitably painful. What do you think? Should a writer re-visit stories that have not been published if he or she has had a dramatically life altering experience that changes their world view?