INKBLOTS – June 7, 2011
Spewed out the 2000 Vin de Pays d’Oc (sorry, Monsieur Sarkosy), unfit for dressing arugula (grimacing shiver). Napa Valley comes through again: Chateau Saint-Jean Merlot, fire on the grate (yes, we had a day of summer-ish weather last week, sort of, but not tonight). David K received word back from Writers’ Edge reading service, which approves only 3% of submissions, and they approved his futuristic political thriller as having publishable potential. Congratulations, David.
Ned leads off reading from one of his favorite writers from his African youth, Robert Ruark, Uhuru, a novel of Africa Today (1961). Launching you into the story, medias res. Protagonist viewing Somalis on Kenyan street scene, posture of woman walking with dignity along the dusty street. A denotative style, minute details, right down to precise entries in the sentry logbook. We discussed how fiction has changed in the last decades, seemingly toward more spare description, more internal human description but less setting that what we just heard from Ruark. In just a page and a half, the man hooked us, made us want to read on.
David reads a manuscript he had started a while back about a traveling preacher, called a ‘healer’ but not a faith healer, “I don’t blow bad-breath theology, or blow you down with emotional words.” Loved the vintage pepsi and twinkies. Started with good common-man description, salt-of-the-earth, folksy style that made us all laugh, but then you started telling and I lost who was thinking these things, or was it an intrusive narrator. Esther and Mickie meet. “You’re a healer,” Esther dreamed that he was coming last night and leads the way to a needy family. “I really like it,” said Ned. “When did you write this?” Which represents all of our sense of this.
John reads a rewrite of a chapter about ducks—not trucks—you heard me: ducks. We beat him up about this chapter a while ago (he must have forgotten the thrashing; we can help). As I recall, I wanted him to connect this episode to the larger problem in the story: sanctity of life. In which John strings out stats on Detroit (pasted right off of Wikipedia, no doubt). John loves cameo appearances… of just about everyone he has ever known, including friends (former ones, if he keeps this up), Dr. Perkins, Dr. Jackson, Ned, Florence, Dawn. Watch out when you’re around John, especially when he starts narrowing his eyes at you and, with tremulous hand, begins clutching for one of the Multi-Care pens in his pocket protector; know, you will be the next cameo in the next chapter. I love it! Doug off-handedly suggests that John observe punctuation when he reads aloud. Blinking perplexedly, John queries, “Punctuation? Like with flat tires?” (Okay, okay, I added that bit). I love John, and he knows it. What larks!
Doug Mc explains his Italian theater WW II novel, set at Monte Casino, first person, present tense. Painting in hospital by El Greco called Christ on the Cross, found at a garage sale in Spain in 1950 (Christ’s ecstasy, “It is finished,” John 19). Painting will be object of debate, including with a captured German Lutheran. “All will be well.” Motion of the branches. Clash of Baptists, Presbyterians. More twang than drawl. “Ready to go to a real church today?” Baptism scene is choice, complete with pastor squelching up the aisle in hip-waders.
My turn. Introduced my plan to write Anglo-Saxon tale as 7th century crime fiction, a detective story, after the fashion of some of my favorites in the genre, G. K. Chesterton and his Father Brown series prominent among them. Read three paragraphs of Anglo-Saxon tale (Caedmon Blood-Axe? You think?). John thought I should ask Sister Wendy what she thinks. “Break it into two chapters,” said Doug Mc. “I think you need more description,” said Ned. Bunch of clowns. He brought up keeping language simple; why did I use bovine instead of cow, for example. Good question. All fiction is contrivance, but it has to be contrivance that works with our understanding of the realities of the historical context, in this case 7th century Northumbria. Can’t write it in Old English: Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard metudæs maecti end his modgidanc. Not going to fly, is it? So I have to find the syntax and diction that fits the historical context, hence the higher register language. But still working on it (better be; three paragraphs needs to become 70,000 words by September 1).