Saturday, August 30, 2008

Do the Dead Mourn the Living? The Case of Bobby's Trace

Haunting, my novel, Bobby’s Trace, is a most unusual ghost story. Readers have contacted me with questions concerning the title spook, because they have never encountered anything like him before. Traditionally, literary ghosts are either vengeful, ethereal, wise, or desperately trapped. Bobby may have all these attributes, but his most pronounced characteristic is that he is in mourning — mourning for his lover and for his life. While he is the antagonist to Perry Chaplin’s stressed-out protagonist, Bobby is also a protagonist, trying to figure out the new world that has engulfed him.

As a fantasy writer, I realize that our task is to create parallel worlds, but with Bobby’s Trace, it is the trace that concerns us — the wake he creates as he tries to pass into the next world. We see this world only through Perry’s presence. He channel’s it, a doorway that opens only through him. Perry has wandered into a crack between life and death and is as confused as Bobby. However, while Perry is trying desperately to get on with his life, nothing can nudge Bobby onward to his death — well, not nothing, but no spoilers here.

Writing about death and mourning is a writer’s preoccupation. Most writers do it. Even J. K. Rowling’s landmark heptology, Harry Potter, has death as its principle theme. Mourning is something I know about, but I wondered whether the dead mourn the living. Is there a reciprocation between the worlds — a Taoist balance, a feng-shui between life and death. To this I added the notion that a ghost’s mourning is fed by the level of a beloved’s mourning — a lover’s desperate holdfast. Denial on its pinnacle. Of course, to turn this clinical discussion into a novel that touches the heart is another task altogether. Balancing pace in this short work depends on mutual themes — deception, renewal and sleight of hand. Still, I am pleased that so many readers have seen fit to express themselves to me by mail and in reviews that Bobby’s eyes still haunt them beyond the last page.

Edward C. Patterson

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