A man that I visited in a nursing home had incurred two broken hips since I had last seen him. He is in his late eighties and apparently facing his remaining life in a room.
There is little about him that is downbeat. He is engaged. Not showing any sign of depression. His demeanor provoked me to look for weakness. Is he crazy, narcissistic, or just a good guy?
I find it easier to find fault than I do in praising him. He has undergone a rite of passage that I don’t think I ever will. I have come and gone into puberty, adulthood, middle age and now early old without any signs of evidence that I ever experience a passage of any sorts. Other than time passing. I feel the same as yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
What I see in him as some kind of psychotic disturbance might be me looking dimly in a mirror. How have I jumped from sixteen to sixty-six without recognition? This man has been in the military and worn several other uniforms, many with badges. Occupations I would have spurned in my younger hours. I wanted recognition but never thought of it doing it the way he did.
Life for me has been more a passing than an entry. Until New Hampshire, moving from one town to another. It is what I see as intriguing about Lee Child’s fictional character Reacher.
Rather than hold to his military exploits, Reacher seems to wander into new realms. Where others might be insecure, he lives one day at a time and becomes prominent as a go to guy, a guy we might ask about life’s meaning. He is a wandering monk. A monastery is his likely next stop, not a nursing home.
One man real, and the other imagination, which one would I rather be?
Friedrich Nietzsche writes, “We have art so that we shall not die of reality.”
I don’t think of Nietzsche as being the most positive guy I never met, but I like this quote. Since he is dead, I have to think I have changed and not him. Or he actually had a moment of bliss.
I take him to mean that art is as much an outlet as an escape; for the artist and the patron. What say you?
In Story Engineering Larry Brooks writes, “Theme in any story is analogous to health in our daily lives – the abundance of it vs. the lack of it defines how well we function. A state of heath – and theme – is always present, good or bad, valued or not. Bad health leads to a compromised life. A lack of theme leads to a compromised story.”
I am finding that memoir and fiction writing are closely related. I used to think only poetry could improve my prose, but memoir is producing ideas that are very convertible.
Writers have been in trouble for presenting fiction as memoir. I am surprised that it has not more often been the reverse.
Judith Barrington in her classic book Writing the Memoir writes, “Do not make the mistake of thinking it is easier to tell the stories you have lived than to make up fictitious stories about imaginary people.”
From my experience, I would add that going through the agonies and ecstasies of what I have lived prepares my fiction. It adds a light and darkness to my imagination that I didn’t see before. This hasn’t yet developed into a story with a beginning and an end, but even with truth I am only just beginning.
Jean-Paul Sartre once said, ” The work of art is of value because it has appeal.”
Is that not what our blogs mold us do? I recently mused that I want to write with purpose, but the purpose of what I write must also have appeal. At least if it is to have value, and I would rather make a living at this craft than have it as a hobby or a therapy session.
what is difficult or oppressive, or challenging about life, at least for me,” speaks Jean Thompson in Ploughshares.
In an interview with Ploughshares editor-in-chief, Jean adds, “Here is the world that I filter through my instrument of writing and try and make sense of it in an aesthetic way.”
I don’t like dark, bleak things. Jean Thompson does not seem to either. She is editor of the spring issue of “Ploughshares,” a terrific literary magazine published at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Each editor writes an Introduction and I thought hers exceptional. If you are a reader or a writer, read this, and be uplifted. It provides a reader’s resurrection for Easter.