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The first novel I wrote was called O. It told the story of a Parisian courier named Olivier Orphelin (the family name means orphan in French: I adhered to the Pynchonian school of naming, just as the title O was an homage to Pynchon's V.), who gets caught up in a conspiracy that has to do with the destruction of the city’s central markets and their replacement with an underground shopping mall...

Well, I was twenty.

I worked on O for five years, from 1991 to 1996, and in that time I wrote and rewrote 500 pages, which represented about half of the story I wanted to tell. Probably 20 of those pages were any good. All of them were written in Pynchon’s shadow: Olivier stumbled from one half-funny faction to the next, until he got lost in a plot as hopelessly unresolvable as the second season of Twin Peaks. Finally, on Christmas Day, 1994, at the end of my ability to complicate things, I read Charles Bukowski's short novel Pulp, then I took a nap. When I woke up it occurred to me that I could write a short novel. I gave myself two weeks to try it.

Twety-one days later I finished the first draft of The Artist of the Missing.

I went back to O afterwards; I went back again and again. But I never got farther than the middle of the book, and in the summer of 1995 O gave way to another novel, Haussmann or the Distinction. And yet I never entirely gave it up. Even when I was far along with Haussmann, which was set in the same place as O, and used, or used up, many of the same ideas, I thought I would come back to O. Something would give, and I’d see how to finish it, how to get it right. Even now, I sometimes look at the chapters of O that have followed me from computer to computer, and wonder if I could use them for something...?

© 2012 Paul Poissel