The Novelist as Instrument of God



On a morning, just as I sat down to write, I had another of these awesome visitations. My entire body was suddenly being overwhelmed with an indescribable joy. It was very physical and almost unbearable. It was unbearable. I thought then about some folks going mad, and at once leapt from my chair. I certainly had no wish to go mad!

My work was calling to me. It took a while to compose myself, and when I began writing, I vaguely became aware that my life existed in a soft, yellowish halo.

The pains which had racked my daily life came to an abrupt end! And I understood then what James Michener meant when he said, that the author can do anything. I could send life to a black-hole, or kill a man or a woman with death. I could give them everlasting life! Ha, I could make a man climb a tree with his body up-side down!

I had created my characters; blown life into them. And I was in absolute control of all of their lives! Suddenly, I understood what Nietzsche meant by: The only creator is the Author.

I would write in another private letter: The power of the word was finally mine. I had become the Word!



On Drama

Drama in the novel must keep pace with twenty-first century movement. It has nothing to do with Sydney Newman’s (Producer of ABC’S Armchair Theatre) golden advice – that drama takes place in ‘time’ … where a story is moving in one direction, something happens and it starts moving in another… That is all well and good for psychopathic behaviour and writing for television.

So far as I am concerned, the first requirement to create drama is the ability to hold the novel together – something that takes twelve fulltime years of writing to acquire. It means that drama is in every word, and in every sentence, linking each scene to completion; the first page to the last. Drama is in the writing style, whether describing imagery or explaining history. It is in the tears of pain as well as in the tears of joy.


On Corroboration

Pat belonged to the Orisha religion, and was floored by When Gods Were Slaves. She kept reading the book over and over. We became acquainted on the phone, and friends later, as Bing Kowlessar (mentioned in The Urchin…) drove me uptown to her business place.

One day, in her office, Pat said: “Sharlow, hear what this woman told me: ‘So why you reading this book with so much sex?’ ”

Pat continued: “I told her: Lady, that is all you could see?”

“Good answer,” I said as we shared a laugh.

Pat remarked then: “I know who wrote this book.”

At first, I was befuddled at her statement. Then she added: “God wrote this book.”

I had no argument with that; it was added corroboration. At her shrine, Pat uses this book as a Christian would use her Bible.

My good friend, Steve Allan, a most devout Christian, placed When Gods Were Slaves on his shelf together with his Bible. I no longer argued with Steve about being chosen.

The phone would ring: “So Mr. Sharlow, you attended university in Africa, Asia, and Europe to write this book?”

“You say,” I answered.

Okafor at the Nigerian Embassy said: “So Mr. Sharlow. How long you lived in Nigeria that you know my country better than me?”

And from New York, New York, Professor James Small began calling on a weekly basis: “I would come to Trinidad just to see you,” he spoke.

What really clinched corroboration of my experiences was what I read in the book, Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar. One of the three ways to find God is through your work. The attainment of grace required that the individual give all of himself. I reflected that in absolute empathizing, I had done exactly that, remaining with no self. I had proof too that I had entered the spiritual realm. Here was corroboration of grace descending, an explanation of the extreme joy I had experienced, and when I had leapt out from my chair!

I recalled the words of Nietzsche: “… write with your blood and experience that blood in spirit.”

To say the least, I was humbled.

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