We meet one of our heroines in NYC in 2009
First of all, I love your writing. Second, I so wish I had the time to participate more fully in your brilliant project. As you know, it’s a process I’ve been experimenting with myself. Unfortunately, less is more for me in 2023 in terms of projects and collaborations.
I've just read both of these pieces you posted Schuyler, only this morning.
Upon finishing the first one (with the background on this project you're inviting us to collaborate with you about), I found myself quite interested, but not all that "stimulated" nor feeling a tremendous amount of resonance.
However, opening up this substack webpage, and realizing when your story "started" (in early 2009), i suddenly found myself electrified!
And the fact that this first "chapter" took place in NYC also generated a tremendous "pull" for me.
i'm still very much in processing mode however, so it may be that what i have to offer (so immediately after having been exposed to so much, and finding the complexity and layering of all that would seem to be contained in both what you've already done in regard to all this, and where i sense you want (us?) to go, to be so rich that i've not yet really managed to wrap my mind around all of the threads) isn't all that valuable. But whether my mind is able to "grasp" what's being offered, my soul is now fully captivated, so i am going to do my best to share what i *feel* about all this. Again though, take heed, it may be that the feedback coming from me is way too much about me.... Forwarned is forearmed.
Beyond the timing detail that "hooked me" (which i'll not go into right now), what i find so damn compelling is the dynamic which exists around *connection*. Specifically (as this has been an issue for me my whole life, but mainly many decades ago, before i found my wonderful partner) in the ways i myself have not understood "boundaries". And even more specifically, how, when i was young, that i may have been seeking something that i lacked, and yet believing what i was seeking was romantic love and/or a sexual relationship (or relationships?). So yeah, what i'm interested in has to do with the prior history (before 2009) you brought with you around this dimension: how sexuality, romantic desire, and a seeking of perhaps a connection that might be completely orthogonal to those things, but likely far deeper than what most modern humans are willing to admit we want. Whether we find that in a lover, a partner, a spouse, a friend, or, for those luckiest among us, in many of those "categories" and/or others, and for the truly blessed, not just in a single person, but in several.
With the benefit of hindsight (and perhaps through the lens of probing your earlier relationships and how "deep" some/many of them might have been, though this doesn't have to be explicitly written as part of the story you/we are trying to build about Katherine), my invitation would be to try to figure out where you were in 2009 with respect to seeking that "depth" (as my intuition tells me that is key here!), and a desire (whether you were confused as I was when i was young about believing that the "way" to get there was via romantic love and/or a relationship with a sexual "energy" to it) to "bond at the level of souls" (i.e. in a way that goes beyond what most ever attain) with a person or persons who might have been spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, constitutionally, and/or behaviorally "compatible" with you.
But again, please feel free to disregard my own "response" and/or advice if it doesn't resonate. It may very well be that what has come up for me is "my own" stuff to work through as best i can, rather than anything that might provide helpful guidance in terms of where this project "wants to go"...
I am reading this again from scratch as this incipit was no longer fresh.
I pick up the following:
The fear the narrator is feeling is also there to protect her. And that can only come from previous experiences the body had with men with a certain power and charisma. I am curious what trauma had been awaken that triggered that freezing then flight response.
Glad you survived the creepy hypnotic gaze.
The next is, if that ever makes it into a revised novel, H deserves a proper first name. I think it helps with generating more empathy for the character, or simply trying to understand him more. With just a letter I feel more detached and judgemental, which is likely not healthy, no matter how badly he behaves.
I agree with Jessica that a larger introduction about your daily life, routine would help us to settle in your NY world before meeting your destiny.
I'm fascinated by your project, Schuyler and happy that I now have some time to devote to reading these pages. I hope to be able to participate the way you intend. The undertaking feels a little scary, even to me (including posting these initial reactions publicly.)
In your writing, there's a palpable air of mystery about H (including the narrator's own push/pull feelings about him) and I could feel how startled and exposed she became when her connection to H was made apparent. I had a sense of her "spiritual age" (young) and I wondered about her chronological age. I guessed maybe late twenties or early thirties. There might be room for a bit more detail in the section the begins "As I trudged down Broadway, my mind was still on my clients, marital problems..." just a few crumbs to ground the reader in what her normal life was like before the initiation began.
I have one deeper wonder, about whether the identity of H will ever be revealed to the reader. I may understand some of the reasons that an initial is used in place of a name, but it's a pointer to a swirl of curiosity in my belly, about what power that name still holds in the narrator's life.
Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more.
Schuyler, I love your writing style - it's truly exquisite - and the story in itself really moved me. It brought up for me a profound remembrance of meeting a man in 2002 who played a similar role in my awakening at a pivotal time. My life and consciousness took a major turn (the beginning of a major unravelling) after crossing path with an ordinary man who showed up from the left field with a gaze that stayed with me to this day. His embodied still presence that locked our gaze for a timeless short moment was so profound, it broke me wide open. It wasn't about words he said nor his status. I just knew he knew something I was hungry for. He met something in my soul I was ready to know intimately and yet felt bewildered to be met at that level in the moment. In your story I see my story. I feel the universality and profundity in it. Thank you for sharing. Is this a chapter in a book you're writing? You inspire me to write. Continue. Thank you for involving us in the process. You inspire me in all that you offer so generously, again and again.