As I have complained before, initial response to Dvarsh, An Introduction was entirely disappointing. So much so that pride of accomplishment felt more and more like vanity. A wall seemed to go up around the artifact on which I had worked harder than on anything else ever, and I could not tell whether bricks of incomprehension or indifference were more numerous.
Very slowly, reaction has started to filter back from people who have engaged the text. Two whom I admire greatly, a linguist and a filmmaker, took on the book, and reached out afterward with glowing praise. Both counseled patience. Independently, they observed that it will take time for an audience to understand what has been done. Recently, another reader told me, “There’s as much Borges as Tolkien in this. It’s not a book to read once and put aside.” That’s right. It’s fruit that took thirty years to ripen. The flavor is complex.
How to talk about both art and product remains a puzzle. Every outing tests buzzwords in search of a golden hook to capture the public. Nothing so far provides a generally compelling frame, and always I worry that too much explanation may be the death of wit. If someone actually stops to listen, how much is too much to reveal about intentions of the book? For now, absent a hook, here’s the bait of confession.
When I was creating the original version of the Dvarsh oracle, Nod’s Way, under constant pressure from a publisher to dumb it down and make it relatable, I snuck three puzzles into the work. I did not tell the publisher because they would have hired a band and set off bottle rockets, and I did not tell anyone else at first because the idea of secrets in an oracular text was sweet.
It took exactly two days after release for a friend to confront me with one puzzle and give the solution. A few months later, another friend recognized and solved a second. While confirming that they had found me out, I did not let either know of the puzzles they had missed. No one has ever mentioned the third. Heh, heh.
Consider, the same trickster who created that book created Dvarsh, An Introduction. Some conclusions require a leap; others fall into open hands. My hope is that the title works successfully on many levels. First and foremost (well, probably), it is exactly what it looks like, a solidly functional reference for the language it represents—the best I could construct. Partly under cover, it is a sly, sometimes hilarious work of non-narrative fiction. Deliciously, it may be the most elaborate brain toy ever to plot escape from the gravity well of south Austin. What a long, slow acceleration.
An aside: The images accompanying this post are Nod’s Way visualizations from a dozen or so years ago. Things change. I’ve been thinking about setting up a gallery on dvarsh.org to showcase the design evolution and progress of Nod’s Way. Is there interest in such a collection of gestures and incomplete thought?