The third installment of the loosely connected Threshold series was, in fact, finished some time around the middle of August--at least as far as the raw page work went. I recall posting some time ago that I was attempting to put together a proof copy for the end of May, but by the time the end of May rolled around, I still had the book's final scene to go. This scene ended up being the most time consuming to execute, as it was painted in full colour at a fairly significant scale. This pushed me into the summer, at which point I was juggling drafts for my MA dissertation alongside painting, and wrestling to edit massive image files on a laptop pushed well beyond both its processor capacity and life expectancy. I spent the first two weeks of September getting very intimate with a large format printer, and produced a hand-bound artist's book version of the work, complete with an etching mounted on the cover:
Measuring 11x17 inches, and featuring folding panels and layered cutouts, this book ended up being far more elaborate than I had anticipated when I started the project. I will upload some shots of these interesting bits as soon as I can get them properly photographed.
However, there is still work to be done. One of the major difficulties I encountered with this project was the challenge of writing a first-person narrative from the perspective of a character who is largely non-verbal--whose thought process and way of understanding the world does not operate primarily through language, and who experiences a high degree of social disconnect as a result. To this end, I attempted to tell the story largely through visual narrative, and keep the text to a minimum. I was concerned, however, that this might compromise the ability of the reader to follow what was going on, particularly as the story becomes more and more surreal. I therefore piloted the book to a group of test readers, with an aim to see how the text was functioning and if the narrative was comprehensible.
The results were, to me at least, quite surprising. The respondents were about evenly split between those who felt that the lack of text worked well with the narrative, and who, despite being confused in parts, felt that everything fell into place by the end, and those who simply had no idea what was going on. What was even more challenging was that out of those respondents who were able to follow the narrative, most felt that additional textual clarification would detract from the experience. I was expecting the feedback to swing one way or the other (hoping for the first but expecting the second), and to see both extremes evenly represented was unexpected.
I've since been struggling to find a solution to address two sets of feedback which completely contradict each other. While it's tempting to simply run with the responses that I most want to hear, I've had work quite justly critiqued in the past for being deliberately obtuse and cryptic. Readers/viewers don't generally like being made to feel stupid, unintentionally or no, and there is a fairly clear distinction between narrative complexity and pretentious obfuscation. I was really hoping to have a pitchable product by the end of my MA, but I'm hesitant to move forward in this area until I can find a solution to these issues. The book is the first installment of a four-part arc that has been completely outlined, so conceivably I could simply progress to the next installment and try to do better. However, the problem is likely to repeat itself unless I get it sorted first. Perhaps the solution is simply being less of a solipsist.