Things to Do on a Cloudy Day: Go to a Writer’s Conference

I’m sitting here in Greensburg, Indiana at the “2012 Writer’s Conference” sponsored by Pen It! MagazineThis is the first writer’s conference I’ve ever attended.  I chose this one for three primary reasons –

1)  It was cheap.

2) It was close.

3) It offered a 30-minute (1-on-1) critique by a published author.

This morning I will attend Character Development: Creating Memorable, Believable and Intriguing Characters led by Suzanne Purewal.  Purewal is a poet and novelist who grew up in Webster, N.Y. (not far from my family home) and now lives in Noblesville, Indiana.  Her work has appeared in The Polk Street Review and An Evening with the Writing Muse.  She has also been featured as the Author of the Month in the September/October 2011 issue of Pen It! Magazine.  She has also published a poetry anthology, From 14 to 41 and a romance novel, Embracing Destiny.  A sequel, Challenging Destiny will be released soon.

My critique session is with Ron Collins.  Ron has been publishing stories in the science fiction and fantasy genres for nearly twenty years.  His work includes Picasso’s Cat & Other Stories as well as See the PEBA on $25 a Day.  His upcoming publications will be “Operation Hercules” in the Canadian magazine OnSpec and “Teammates” in Galaxy’s Edge edited by Mike Resnick.  Ron has read and will be reviewing with me “Liberty” – the second story in my upcoming trilogy Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

My afternoon session is Beyond the First Draft – A Top Ten List for Getting Published with Dan Logan.  Dan has published short stories in various anthologies, journals, and periodicals such as The Route 66 Magazine.  He has two novels out – The First Migration and The Last Portal and is currently working on a third – The Author’s Staircase.

Faithfulness to Family and Farming Life: “Fidelity” by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry

In the rural Kentucky community of Port William, people “do for each other”, in life and in death.  But what about in between – the terrible period when someone you love is dying?  You need to do something, anything, but you can’t be sure what is to be done.

Nathan Coulter and his family face this with their eighty-two year old “Uncle Burley” when he takes sick.  Do they take him to the doctor?  His son Danny thinks so.  Nathan wonders.

“He’s never been to a doctor since I’ve known him.  He said he wouldn’t go.  You going to knock him in the head before you take him?”

Ultimately, they decide to take him to the doctor in Louisville, who declares that Burley is too weak for surgery, that it would be necessary to build up his strength.  They admit him to the hospital, where he becomes disoriented.  His health rapidly declines.

… in the midst of the building of strength and the testing, Burley slipped away toward death.  But the people of the hospital did not call it dying; they called it a coma.  They spoke of curing him.  They spoke of his recovery.

Soon Nathan and the others realize their effort to “do something” for Uncle Burley has proven only to makes things worse.

Loving him, wanting to help him, they had given him over to “the best of modern medical care” — which meant, as they now saw, that they had abandoned him.

Thinking of this, unable to sleep at home in Port William, Danny is compelled to act, to do something.  He drives back to Louisville and rescues Uncle Burley, springing him from the hospital, bringing him back past Port William where Danny cares for him in a familiar barn.

This sets a number of things in motion…

…. a call from the hospital to Danny’s wife Lyda, who admits only that Danny was not there, that he said, “something about Indiana”.

… a call to friend and family lawyer Henry Catlett who advises Lyda to say nothing else, to send the investigating police to him.

… a visit from Detective Kyle Bode, a twice-divorced Ringo Starr look-alike who is weary of dealing with the deception of country folk.

Nathan is drawn into the action and his wife Hannah reflects on the nature of the Port William community –

When she thought of their neighborhood, Hannah wondered whether or not to count the children.  Like the old, the young were leaving.  The old were dying without successors, and Hannah was aware of how anxiously those who remained had begun to look into the eyes of the children.  They were watching not just their own children now but anybody’s children.  For as the burden of keeping the land increased for the always fewer who remained, as the difference continued to increase between the price of what they had to sell and the cost of what they had to buy, they knew that they had less and less to offer the children, and fewer arguments to make.

“Fidelity” explores not only the impending death of an old man, but the pending death of an old way of life – the farming community.

Thanks to the courageous (and illegal) acts of his son Danny,  Burley is able to die with dignity, on familiar ground and to be properly buried and grieved.

But how does a community die with dignity?  And who is left to mourn it?  Who remembers what is lost?

(“Fidelity” is found in Fidelity: Five Stories by Wendell Berry)

(photo of Wendell Berry from Jessica Clare {Civetta} in Creative, Eccentric & Talented)

Fish Pants, Museum of Angry Women and Bibi From Jupiter: 3 Favorite Shorts on the Web

Reading

I’ve been submitting some stories to various on-line and print journals and thought I’d invest some time today reading what’s out there and sharing some links to a few prime finds.  Here are three –

“Fish Pants” by Meg Tuite, The Bookends Review

Knuckle has some pants he keeps fishing out of the hamper.  He goes to a Cubs game and becomes Joe Pepitone.  Then he turns into Elton John singing his own words to “Crocodile Rock” –

“I pretended her rock was blind,

me and Squeezie had so much gum,

holding cans and skinny phones

had an old rolled grandma and a piece of my bone…”

“Museum of Angry Women” by Gary Ives, Fiction on the Web

A road-trip across Missouri on Highway 66 turns into an adventure as Ron drags his weary women folk through a tribute to excessive estrogen.

Leaving the ticket area we passed a bronze bust of Hillary Clinton. We began at the Angry Nurses exhibit which featured a lovely diorama depicting Nurse Ratchett in a neck brace supervising patient R. P. MacMurphy’s lobotomy. There was also a lifesize figure of Kathy Bates’ character Nurse Annie Wilkes tending James Caan’s legs with a nine pound sledge hammer. Another diorama showed Texas nurse Kimberly Saenz preparing Clorox bleach IVs for her patients at the Lufkin nursing home where she worked before her arrest for multiple murders.

“Bibi from Jupiter” by Tessa Mellas, Narrative

Mellas offers a magically realistic depiction of your average college campus these days and explores the joys and trials of intentional diversity.

When I marked on my roommate survey sheet that I’d be interested in living with an international student, I was thinking she’d take me to Switzerland for Christmas break or to Puerto Rico for a month in the summer. I wasn’t thinking about a romp around the red  eye of Jupiter, which is exactly what I’d have gotten had I followed my roommate home. Apparently, American school systems have become pretty popular all over. Universities shepherd foreigners in. Anything to be able to write on the brochures, “Our student body hails from thirty-three countries and the far reaches of the solar system.

photo “Reading” from Pam Reynolds onto Books ~ Curl Up With A Good BOOK (to be sorted later)

“Life” Progress Report from the Pourhouse Cafe

Indiana University Bloomington by Eun Soo Chung

I’m here at the Pourhouse Café, sipping on an Americano, listening to John Prine radio and reflecting back on what has been a productive day of writing.

So, I ask myself (with you, faithful reader looking over my shoulder), “Where am I in ‘Life’?”

“Well”, I begin to answer (taking another sip of Americano), “I now have…

… just over 4,500 words written.

… working drafts of six scenes (including two “memory sequences”).

… phrase/sentence sketches for the remaining 19 scenes.

I had fun creating the character of Esther Stein – Rachel’s roommate – a Political Science major from Chicago.  I liked the interchange with Anne, the counselor, who drops by to tell them to get prepared for the “freshman frolic” where there will be “plenty of boys”.

Turning back, Anne said, “Esther, you may want to touch up your nose a bit.”

Esther grimaced, “I’ll get right on that.”

I think I should now be able to crank out at least one scene a day, with a target goal of having a working draft by April 22.  I still have some research to do to answer questions like…

… what campus job will Rachel get?

…. what will be the name of the club/coffee house where they hang out?

… what is the plot of the movie Rachel sees with a boy she meets?

…. what is the subject of a class lecture she attends?

I received some very good news yesterday from Leanne at Pen to Paper Communications.  Leanne will be serving as a beta-reader for my trilogy as well as offering her perspective on my portrayal of Rachel (as I attempt to tell the story from a woman’s point of view).   I have been following Leanne’s blog Writings and Ruminations for some time and look forward to embarking on this venture with her as I come to the home stretch of this writing project.

That’s about it.

So much for my “Life”.  How’s yours?

(photo above Indiana University Bloomington from Eun Soo Chung)

Poor, Mizzling Souls in William Faulkner’s “Shingles for the Lord”

William Faulkner

Rather than do a review of what I found to be one of the finest short stories I’ve ever read, I think I’ll just give you a morsel to taste.  Hopefully, it will inspire you to read the rest.

Pap is late getting to the church.  He was late borrowing the froe from Killegrew, “a seventy-year-old man, with both feet and one knee, too, already in the grave”.  Killegrew had been squatting all night on a hill listening to a fox race (or trying to, since “he couldn’t even hear unless they had come right up onto the same log he was setting on and bayed into his ear trumpet.”

Reverend Whitfield was in no mood to hear excuses.

“You could have gone yesterday and borrowed the froe,” Whitfield said, “You have known for a month now that you had promised this one day out of a whole summer toward putting a roof on the house of God.”

Pap defends himself –

“We ain’t but two hours late,” pap said. “I reckon the Lord will forgive it.  He ain’t interested in time, nohow.  He’s interested in salvation.”

But the Reverend won’t be out-theologized –

“He ain’t interested in neither! Why should He be, when He owns them both? And why He should turn around for the poor, mizzling souls of men that can’t even borrow tools in time to replace the shingles on His church.  I don’t know either.”

Before getting to work, Pap argues with Homer and Salon about how many man-hours have been lost and how many units of work they had promised Whitfield.  Pap snaps back –

What modern ideas?… I didn’t know there was but one idea about work — until it is done, it ain’t done, and when it is done, it is.

They keep going at it about work and how Pap should have hired somebody to work “them extra overtime units”.  Pap says he “ain’t had no WPA experience in dickering over labor.”  Salon proposes that instead of paying cash, he could work a trade, “You might use that dog.” Pap stops in his tracks and looks over at Solon.  Pap didn’t own the hound outright, but had raised it for half-interest.

“So that’s it,” pap said.  “Them things wasn’t work units atall.  They was dog units.

Solon insists it is just a friendly offer – “You sell me your half of that trick overgrown fyce and I’ll finish these shingles.” Pap comes back with talk of six extra units of one dollars.  Solon says no, “I’ll pay you the same two dollars for your half of that dog that me and Tull agreed on for his half of it.”  Pap could bring back the dog tomorrow and forget all about the church roof.

Pap sets there with the maul up over his head, looking at Solon.  Then he begins to laugh.  And without warning, he brings the maul down, “the froe done already druv through the bolt and into the ground while the shingle was still whirling off the slap Solon across the shin.”

They go back at until it’s time to break for lunch.

Over lunch, they continue to negotiate work hours, dollars, and the hound dog, as well as the cost of the shingles.  Finally, Solon takes out his purse and pays pap the two dollars and they get to work, arguing about whether it would be possible for finish the job in a day.  Salon lays down his froe and maul and says –

Well, men, I don’t know what you fellars think, but I consider this a day.

Pap doesn’t skip a beat –

All right…  You are the one to decide when to quit, since whatever elbow units you consider are going to be shy tomorrow will be yourn.

Solon agrees –

That’s a fact, … and since I am giving a day and a half to the church instead of jest a day, like I started out doing, I reckon I better get on home and tend to a little of my own work.

to read more…. check out “Shingles for Lord” in Works by William Faulkner

photo of William Faulkner from Rob Lowell in Repetitive History~ good beauty, bad ugly, ebon ivory.

Do You Have the Time?: A Review of E.L.Doctorow’s “All the Time in the World”

E.L. Doctorow- Contemporay New York City author of novels, short stories, essays and plays-often concerned with historical settings within the United States.

“All the Time in the World” from E.L. Doctorow’s collection All the Time in the World: New and Selected Stories reads more like a guided meditation that a linear narrative.  It works like a really good music video works, complete with colorful imagery, lyrical refrains, and compelling twists.

The landscape of the story is a nameless city with buildings that go up fast filled with naked, dancing ladies.  The narrator is a runner who tries to avoid the confusion of the masses –

To avoid the bent old ladies and their carts of groceries and their walkers and canes and black women helpers taking up three-quarters of the sidewalk, I run in the street.  I mean cars are less of a problem.  In typical traffic they are standing still as I run past the horns blowing their dissonant mass protest, and so I wear earmuffs and I am fine.

Yet, the narrator runs, he reveals, because he doesn’t know what else to do.  He sees no point in going to the movies, “with their filmed stories that I am supposed to worry over.”  He feels out of place, even though there are other runners like him.

The story then shifts to certain meta-fictional, metaphysical questions, such as –

 You may ask how I pass the time when I am not running.  Alone, is my answer — as alone as when I am running.  My only company is the grammarian who lives with me in my brain.

The narrator paints a picture of physical, emotional, and spiritual aloneness – a purposeless existence that is random and unguided.  When not talking to the grammarian in his brain, he uses the speed-dial on his cell phone:

You may ask to whom I think I am talking.  I say I am talking to you.  And who may that be, you say.  And then I recognize who it is.  It is my mother.

You have all the time in the world, she says.

Until what?

Until something happens, Mother says.

What can happen?

If we knew, she says, and breaks the connection.

The story then moves to the weather, from running in the rainwater, to the warmth and humidity of the sun.  Some trash is blowing in the street and the runner picks up “a handwritten letter on blue vellum, feeling it was meant for me.”

The ink of my letter runs like tears as I read, while rising to my floor, the grief of an abandoned lover.  She can’t understand why he has left her, she needs to see him, come back, she says, come to me, for she still loves him, she always will, and it is all so sad, so sad, so sad, and I don’t know who threw the letter away, he after reading it, or she after writing it…

The story circles back and forth…

… to the naked dancing girl

…. to speed-dialing (his father, his therapist)

… to sadness

The call to the therapist is particularly revealing of the narrator’s frustration –

Yes?  To whom do you think you are talking?

Dr. Sternlicht?

You got him.

I’m having that feeling again.

That is to be expected.

It’s like I’m living in exile.  I’m lonely.  I have no one.

That is to be expected.

Why? Why is it to be expected?  That’s all you ever say.

No.  I say other things.  I say you are in a rut.  I say change your lifestyle, expand your horizons…

You might say “All the Time in the World” goes no where, but the it uses the time it takes to get there well – in describing the futility of modern attempts to make sense of the world – being stuck in traffic while Buddhist monks in saffron robes dance in circles, running until his heartbeat becomes irregular, then calling his internist who says, “You are just frightened.”

Desperate for meaning, the narrator winds up in a confessional.  Even there, he finds no consolation, but jargon instead – “the corporeal illustion”, “the gender identity.”

Doctorow weaves a hint of hope in the last two paragraphs of the story, as he looks at the deep blue sky and welcomes the springtime.  He seems to suggest there is some hope in nature that can not be found in civilization, even  if only a “reverberant hum, as of some distant engine.”

The story doesn’t take us to any Promised Land, it only suggests that there may be a better place out there, but all the avenues we currently follow only leave us in exile.

Not to worry, though, we have “All the Time in the World”.

(image of E.L. Doctorow from Christopher Korbel in All Kinds Of Writers)

A Dream Life in “Short Easter” by John Updike

John Updike

 

 

John Updike has been one of the most celebrated American authors for over 50 years.  He has published more words than some people ever speak.

The National Endowment of Humanities website sums up his life and work (so far) in this way —

His pen rarely at rest, John Updike has been publishing fiction, essays, and poetry since the mid-fifties, when he was a staff writer at the New Yorker, contributing material for the “Talk of the Town” sections. “Of all modern American writers,” writes Adam Gopnik in Humanities magazine, “Updike comes closest to meeting Virginia Woolf’s demand that a writer’s only job is to get himself, or herself, expressed without impediments.”

When asked to describe his own work, Updike has said –

“My only duty was to describe reality as it had come to me—to give the mundane its beautiful due.”

I first encountered Updike’s writings when I read Rabbit, Run where he masterfully narrates the story through Harry Angstrom, a former high school basketball star, now 26, looking to escape his conventional middle class existence.  I don’t remember much of the story, but remember Harry to be completely self-absorbed and obsessed with sex (basically an all-American male).

Today I decided to explore one of Updike’s short stories – “Short Easter” (found in The Afterlife: and other stories).

 

Fogel, the 62-year old main character, is not looking forward to Easter (this year shortened by Daylight Savings Time).  In fact, it’s hard to say just what Fogel is looking forward to, as he basically rails against modern life and all things in it.  Updike describes Fogel’s road rage –

If Fogel’s stately Mercedes had been equipped with a button that would annihilate other vehicles, he would have used it three or four times a mile.  Almost every other automobile on the road – those that passed him, those so slow he had to pass them, those going just his speed and hanging in his side mirrors like pursuing furies – seemed a deliberate affront, restricting his freedom and being somehow pretentious about it.

Fogel is angered about getting old.  He is angered by a wife who is not his mother.  He is angered by lost opportunities.  Reflecting back on a failed love affair, he reflects –

One small side-effect still rankled: their affair ended in the springtime, and his former mistress declined to invite him and his family to an Easter egg hunt she and her family annually gave.  His children’s feelings were hurt, and for consolation they were taken out, after church, to eat at the International House of Pancakes.  Heaps of pancakes, Fogel remembered – buckwheat, buttermilk, blueberry – that seemed, soaked in syrup, almost unswallowably sweet.

Lost in his anger at perceived slights, stuck with people who don’t meet his needs, getting sore in body and mind, Fogel goes through the motions of doing some yard work (after being shamed into it by his wife).  Even digging in the leaves, though, he can’t escape his dissatisfaction –

One of his fantasies was a kind of ray gun that, directed at a plant or tree, would not only kill it, but vaporize it to a fine, fertilizing ash.  Agricultural labor, this endless plucking of weeds and replowing of fields, had always seemed to him the essence of futility.

After some yard work, it’s off to a neighborhood brunch which “was also pointless”.  (So why bother to review it.)

He comes home and wanders into the room of his son, who left for college ten years ago.

His mother liked to keep the room as he had left it, as some fanatical religious sects keep a room ready in case Jesus returns and asks to be a guest.

Fogel is weary from the labor, from the gin, tomato juice and champagne, and likely with his miserable post-middle age existence.  He lays down across the bed and falls asleep.   As he sleeps, he comes to life –

He dreamed in the deep colors of true weariness. Electricity wandered through his brain, activating one set of memory cells and now another.  A wash of buried emotion rounded these phantoms into light and shadow, and cried out tears and outcries of indignation from Fogel’s phantom self; he presided above the busy lit stage of his subconscious as prompter and playwright, audience and deus ex machine as well as hero.

Suddenly, Fogel wakes up full of fear, curls up in a fetal position and looks around him.

Everything was in its place, yet something was immensely missing.

On this Easter day, there is hope that Fogel will rise from his self-induced tomb of anger and regret and light up the stage with new life.

Or was it only a dream?

 

 

(image of John Updike from Kim Zoph in A Portrait of the Artist)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aimless Longing in “The Other Place” by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood - Moral Disorder and Other Stories

“The Other Place” (found in Moral Disorder and other stories) by Margaret Atwood is more of a character sketch than a sustained story.  It’s not great, but very good, and there is some wonderful writing in it.  Rather than a standard review, I would like to walk through the narrative and display some of the beautiful linguistic scenery along the way.

Told from the perspective of a young woman making her way alone in the world, Atwood describes her longing and sense of powerlessness –

For a long time I wandered aimlessly.  It felt like a long time.  It didn’t feel aimless, however, or not in any carefree way: I was being driven by necessity, by fate, like the characters in the more melodramatic novels I’d read in high school who would rush out into thunderstorms and lurk around on moors.  Like them I had to keep moving.  I couldn’t help it.

She was pressed to pursue… pursue what?  It’s not like she is on a mission.  At the same time, she is distanced from the life laid out for her, handed down through the generations, portrayed by her parents rushing about doing gardening and dishes at home.

They were immersed in mundane affairs, they were not contemplating any higher truths.  I’d feel superior to them.  Then I’d feel homesick.

“Meanwhile, I had to make a living,” she writes.  Fortunately, there were jobs to be found for women with her intellect.

I thought of myself as an itinerant brain– the equivalent of the strolling player of Elizabethan times, or else a troubadour, clutching my university degree like a cheap lute.

At the university gatherings, the male faculty saw her as free game for “trial gropings” while their wives looked on her “as if she had head lice.”  She stood alone, like the cheese in “Hi-ho, the derry-o“.  She fails to find liberation in the sexual revolution, too old for the “love beads and pothead crowd.”  Instead, she lives on the edge – in rooming houses, shared apartments and sublets – filling her space with “makeshift items from thrift stores”.

The objects I chose were designed to hold something, but I didn’t fill them.  They remained empty.  They were little symbolic shrines to thirst.

She manages to land a job teaching grammar to freshmen at a university in Vancouver.  She moves into an upstairs apartment.  She walks through the rooms naked and wears herself out reading late at night.  Sometimes she goes for walks.

A friend introduces her to Owen – a man more desperately alone than she is.  He drops by at night – not really courting her, not really befriending her, just sort of hanging out.

One night Owen tells her his brothers once tried to kill him by locking him in an abandoned refrigerator.  She wonders if this explains his desperate sadness.  Is he suicidal?

I felt I should respond in some empathetic way, declare a firm position, reach out a helping hand.  My eventual murmur of “That’s terrible.” didn’t seem nearly enough.  Worse: I had a shameful desire to laugh, because the thing was so grotesque, as near-tragedies often are.  Surely, I lacked empathy, or even simple kindness.

Owen must have felt so too, because after that evening he never came back.  Or possibly, he’d done what he’d wanted to do: dropped off his anguish, left it with me like a package in the mistaken belief that I would know what to do with it.

If you have a story you’d recommend I read and review, leave a comment or e-mail me: johnprine1982@gmail.com

image above  Sara Benitez in Books Worth Reading

To Thine Own Self Be True: “Dimensions” by Alice Munro

Too Much Happiness - Alice Munro

As I go about writing “Life”, I’ve decided to engage in a reading discipline as well.  Taking a page from Julie Israel’s blog, The Read Room, I will be reading some of the best short stories I can get my hands on and reflecting on them here.  Julie was able to complete 31 in 31 straight days.  My goal is 25.

Today’s story:

“Dimensions” by Alice Munro from Too Much Happiness

Synopsis:

The story opens with Doree (who now goes by Fleur), a spiked-haired chambermaid from Blue Spruce Inn taking 3 buses to an unnamed ‘facility”.  She is jittery and tries to settle her nerves by picking words out of signs (from “coffee” – “fee”, “foe”, “off”, “of”).

The narration hops back 7 years, to when Doree was 16 and she met Lloyd while visiting her mother in the hospital.  Both Lloyd and Doree’s mother were “old hippies” and they reminisced about “the outrageous people they had known, drug trips that had knocked them out, that sort of thing.” Doree’s mother dies of a embolism and she moves in with Lloyd.  Before her 17th birthday, she gets pregnant.  They move to the country and Sasha is born.

Back to the present, we meet Mrs. Sands who is anything but an old hippie.  Monro masterfully describes Mrs. Sands’ attire –

“Her large, kind, impersonal sobriety drained all assaulting cheerfulness, all insult out of those clothes.” 

Mrs. Sands and Doree have a conversation about Doree’s visits with Lloyd – his appearance, his manner.

Munro moves back to the family narrative.  When Sasha is 1 1/2, Barbara Ann is born.  When Barbara Ann is two, Dimitri comes along.  Dimitri is colicky and the La Leche lady encourages her to continue breastfeeding, not to supplement.  Doree has already started supplementing, but she doesn’t tell Lloyd.  She tells him her milk is dried up.  Lloyd

“…squeezed one breast after another with frantic determination and succeeded in getting a couple of drops of miserable-looking milk out.” 

He calls her a liar, and a whore like her mother.

As the story enfolds, the tension between Lloyd and Doree escalates.  He calls her friend Maggie,  “Lezzie” and demands to know what they talk about.  He tries to convince Doree that Maggie is trying to separate them.

“She’ll get you over there bawling and whining about what a bastard I am.  One of these days.”

Lloyd’s words, as paranoid as they are prove prophetic as Doree does leave for Maggie’s late one night when she is unable to “scare him out of his craziness”.  This sets the stage for the climax of the story which is both quite believable and haunting in its stark detail.

One Great Line:

“She was even allowed to laugh with him, as long as she wasn’t the one who started the laughing.”

A Spiritual Reflection:  (from Lloyd’s letter)

“What I know in myself is my own Evil.  That is the secret of my comfort.  I mean I know my Worst.  It may be worse than other people’s worst but in fact, I do not have to think or worry about that.  No excuses.  I am at peace.”

[Note:  If you have a short story to recommend that I read and review over the next month, I would appreciate you leaving word in the comments.]

image above JY Besle in Worlds Within Words { meanders and intricacies of my essential Sadness }

“Liberty” Begins – Hanover College; Fall, 1982

The Road to Hanover by EricMagnuson

“The Road to Hanover” from EricMagnuson, some rights reserved

I just finished writing two scenes in the second of my trilogy of stories – “Life”, “Liberty” and “The Pursuit of Happiness”.

“Liberty” begins in the Fall of 1982, as the Johnson family follows the windy wooded road that leads to the “Harvard of the Midwest” – Hanover College.  David Johnson’s future is as bright as the multi-colored leaves clinging to the trees that line the pathway to new knowledge.  Little does he know what lies ahead.

I’m finding as I write that memories are coming back to me –

… meeting my college roommate for the first time.  He was a faithful Irish Catholic from Cincinnati’s Moeller high school passionate about football, beer, family, and friends (not necessarily in that order).

… going to the orientation “mixers” and noticing just how many incredibly attractive young women (we still called them “girls” then) actually paid attention to me in my faux-Izod knit shirt and non-designer jeans.

… being introduced to the ideas of an “alternative sub-culture” who openly smoked cigarettes and privately smoked pot, talking about Nietzsche and Existentialism and scoffing at conservative Christians trying to legislate morality.

– reading Dispatches by Michael Herr, a first-hand account of the Vietnam War and being shocked as much by the language than by the descriptions of violence.

– being attracted to the liberal politics of the “Peace and Justice” movement and noticing “Free Leonard Peltier” buttons on Salvation Army flannel shirts.

I think this is going to be a fun story to write.  I’m tempted to send scenes to old college friends as I write them, but I’m going to resist the urge.  Some may stumble on some snippets I describe here on my blog.  Still, I think it would be better to nurture this baby in the womb of my word processor until it’s at least viable.