Novel #1

When he sat down at the computer terminal, he thought that maybe something good would come to his mind, and he would find himself in the midst of writing a great novel. How vain were his hopes in this regard? It might very well have happened. The fact that it didn’t, this time, should not have been a great disappointment to him, and it wasn’t. To amuse himself, he pretended that the computer keyboard was a piano keyboard and, as he typed, raised his eyes to the ceiling as he had seen great virtuoso pianist do on the concert stage. Whether their show of emotion was involuntary, caused by the passion and intellect of the music they played, or, as it sometimes seemed, feigned for effect, it was certainly great theatre.

He felt himself naturally trailing off on this trajectory, which was foreign from his ambition to write a novel (or was it?) because he thought of the 60 Minutes segment on the violinist Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg, in which they showed, and paid special attention to, the stunning and dramatic expressiveness of her face while she was playing the violin. David was captivated. Her lips would twist at the high notes and spasms would run through her cheeks. Her eyes would sometimes betray a sensation of terrible joy or terrible pain, and when she was not playing, the orchestra approaching her cadenza with pomp, she took to bouncing on the balls of her feet, as if the suspense of the coming music, awaiting ecstatic release at the tips of her fingers (clutching the bow and arched agonizingly over the strings) was too much to bear. If that was all 60 Minutes had shown of Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg, he might have forgotten it, but in an interview she said convincingly that she had no idea of how her face looked in concert (oh, to be so unconscious in art). But more important was when she leaned forward, her face quiet and restrained, her voice blunt and accented in the simple New York style, and she stated with the most wonderful naive belief that what she really wanted at the moment was human companionship. She wanted a love life. David felt such tenderness for her that at the first opportunity he bought one of her CD’s, breathless with the thought of listening to it from beginning to end. Certainly the sympathy he had for her person would allow him to feel something when she played. The something he would feel would be the same something which turned her face into such an orchestra of emotion, the camera close up to it.

Well, it didn’t work out. David was not a huge fan of classical music. He suspected that he was much too verbal to fully appreciate the wordless art of the great classical composers. Perhaps he thought that Nadja would dig it out for him, display it for him to clearly see. But he could only experience it second hand, through her face, and with regard to the music her face could only be a very cloudy lens which would let nothing definite through and only frustrate the viewer, eventually making him go blind.

At his computer terminal for nearly a half-hour now, he had still not succeeded in beginning a novel. Nothing of the sort had happened. And after he had written a bit about Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg he couldn’t think of anything else to write about.

[Originally published in the online journal The Scrivenery in 1997.  The theme was meta-fiction.]

Published by David Hammond

David Hammond lives and dreams in Virginia with his wife, two daughters, one dog, three rats, and a multitude of insects. During the day, he makes websites. More of his writing can be found at

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