If a man shouts a sentence in the middle of the forest where no one, man or woman, can hear him, is he still wrong?
No one can say, not having heard the content of his sentence; and the same thing is true, at this moment, of Works in Progress (and a few of my other books at my website and elsewhere, which, unlike when I had well-known publishers publishing and publicizing my work, are lost in the Amazon jungle of millions of titles): They may be shouts in the middle of a forest, but since no one* has read it yet, no one can say whether or why it is right or wrong—or whether “right” and “wrong” have any meaning in the context of such an act of pure self-expression.
And yet, I needed to shout this book to the world. Or at least to myself. (And maybe that's why the phenomenon of Bernie Sanders is justified: he has something to say, and he must say it--and in my humble opinion, he needs to be heard.)
That’s why I published it. But why the title Works in Progress?
Because it proclaims that nothing is final for me, that I am always open to rethinking my conclusions, and that my stories are just one tiny strand in the vast tapestry of human history and thinking.
Though I am a procrastinator, harboring stories for years before I publish them, at some point in September 2015, I just had to get some of this off my chest, for it was a burden, a promise to myself, that had been weighing on me: I would, one day, tell this story. And now, I have (whether or not anyone reads it, that is their problem). A few other pieces (included here) had been published in e-book form (but not everywhere), but not in print (all except one).
Acutely aware that life is a gift that can be withdrawn at any second, I felt that I did not, any longer, have the luxury of waiting for perfection.
So I decided to combine these disparate works under the present title.
To tell the truth—the deep truth, as I see it—has been one of the passions of my writing life. Also, to trust the creative process, to believe that much of what I have written was meant to be published and read, and is what I owe to the world regardless of short-term obstacles: writing being a mission, a calling, rather than a choice—it is what I have always believed, though sometimes with less faith than at other times.
Also, I, and some of my friends and readers, regard print as a more solid, palpable, enduring, and substantial format than a digital file. Literary readers and serious readers read printed books with love and joy. So do I: I love to underline the parts of a paper book that move me, later rereading them with pleasure. Many of my friends absolutely refuse to read an e-book.
Though parts of this book may not be “finished,” in the sense that some artists prefer to sign their names only to works that are near-perfect, others believe that perfection is an illusion, or a subjective judgment. To further delay publication while waiting for perfection may be an excuse concocted by my Inner Coward. And I am tired of excuses, of fooling myself.
I do not believe that I have the right to postpone these and other books. To some extent, you write for yourself; but you also live in, benefit from, and are the product of a society, and this society deserves to hear what you have to say. An artist is, in some sense, an enabler of democracy and discourse, of feeling and self-discovery.
I hope you enjoy this book and most of its varied offerings.
(*Since I first wrote this, I unpublished the paperback, and the one reader who read Works in Progress has written back to say it is my second most moving work: he has read 8 other books of mine. But, as the inimitable Bob Dylan puts, it "You're not him!"; so the books of mine I'd recommend that readers read first are The Revised Kama Sutra, The killing of an Author, and Impressing the Whites.)