Although I never made note of it before, I noticed when I was editing my latest book—The View from Vancouver—that I had slipped in references to my other books. At first I made little of it, and presumed I was thinking of and therefore evoking the small city near Vancouver and that reminded me of my other book.
When the girl and her adoptive father are crossing the country in Working for Ray, they make stops in a variety of cities to drop off screen printed t-shirts for sale. When they make the delivery in Hope, BC, my hitchhiker from The View from Vancouver is there. The incident is merely backdrop, but he notes a girl and man unloading a car as he walks toward the bus station.
I would have thought less of the incident if I hadn’t inserted a few more references into the book. He sees a man driving a green car dropping off two other hitchhikers and watches them wave goodbye. That was me, as I drove west one year when I was building my boat. I had picked up two hitchhikers on the edge of Winnipeg, and my narrator saw only the end of a longer trip. Of course, writers normally describe events they have seen in their books, and such incidents from my life—such as when the cops watch the impromptu punker festival in Crab Park—are scattered through that book and others.
When my hitchhiker is going past a boat on a trailer behind an out of gas truck on a layby, I returned to the moment that I had misjudged the distance and had coasted with a dead motor into the layby at the foot of the Coquihalla Pass. My narrator later sees the driver, having hitched himself, arriving at the gas station in Hope. He stands beside me as I bought gas and heard me ask for a ride back to my boat. Similarly, the story my brother told me about a man who had attacked him after walking in his open door made it into the novel.
The odd parts of the novel are mostly those in which my narrator glimpses moments of the lives of other characters I have written. Perhaps that’s why I was remained surprised when he rents a cabin in the Yukon which is designed like the one I want to build and then reads one of my books he finds on the shelf. In the science fiction world such intertextuality is common. Authors will construct worlds or times in which their other narratives are known to their characters, as events which belong to that novelistic universe. That is not so common in realism.
In my latest novel, I can’t help but believe that such intrusions are proof of a kind of contamination, like the stories were bleeding into one another. As though the world of news broadcasts and statistics were somehow unreal, and that of my various books were joining the Greek chorus that is my fictional version of Canada.