Thursday, September 16, 2010

RRR: Cakes and Ale

Cakes and Ale, Maugham

"I stifled a sigh. I have noticed that when I am most serious people are apt to laugh at me, and indeed when after a lapse of time when I have read passages that I wrote from the fullness of my heart I have been tempted to laugh at myself. It must be that there is something naturally absurd in sincere emotion, though why there should be I cannot imagine, unless it is that man, the ephemeral inhabitant of an insignificant planet, with all his pain and all his striving is but a jest in an eternal mind."

Maugham tells of a writer Driffield's life, through the first person narrator, a writer himself who reflects back on his childhood and early twenties.  Largely the narrator is reflecting on the life of Rosie, Driffield's first wife, who was innocently beautiful and a combination of selfishly and selflessly promiscuous.  Ted Driffield lived as a poor man until in his later life he received much acclaim, largely due to the social pushes and control of Mrs Trafford and then his second wife. His talent was never recognized in his hometown, but only the scandals of his first wife were relished and rebuffed.

The narrator examines the wraith of the Driffield he knew, the Driffield who wrote the novels and the hidden Driffield in between. He studies the life of an author in comparison to the clamoring of the world,  in the demands of fame and lack of fame.

In reflecting I come back to the "All is meaningless" from Ecclesiastes.  The attitude of the narrator would agree, but also concludes that only the writer is free.  For after he has captured the heartache and rage on paper, he can finish with the emotions playing him and can continue onwards in freedom.

So on a separate note - writing is also a tool of therapy...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Random Reading Reflections: The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

“What an unbearable creature he had been in those days – and yet in those days he had been comparatively innocent. That was another mystery; it sometimes seemed to him that venial sins – impatience, an unimportant lie, pride, a neglected opportunity – cut you off from grace more completely than than the worse sins of all. Then, in his innocence, he had felt no love for anyone; now in his corruption he had learnt...”

Though the “whisky priest” may feel he is unfit, he is engaged in a struggle to survive while preforming the tasks of his vocation, fighting with himself and seemingly losing. Yet, when it comes to ultimate choices of saving his own life by fleeing the regime or serving the pious locals around him, he chooses to serve – some of the time. He claims he is no martyr, as it was for pride that he stayed behind while all others fled for safety. Even in his selfless actions he battles with his motivations. He knows he does not live up to the standards of the priesthood or even the pious, yet he cannot shirk his role despite his best efforts at resistance. Greene captured a tortured Catholic priest who in good times used the ideals of his faith for his own benefit, but when caught in persecution, emerged to be the better human being he could not be before. When this Father escaped to safety, he somehow knew it could not last, and returned across the border to give a dying mass murderer confession, knowing it would mean his own death. The Power and the Glory starkly evaluates religion and prosperity and religion under persecution, revealing human struggles with pride, selfishness and devotion. Through the whisky priest it is easy to see revealed the message of O'Conner's, “A Good Man is Hard to Find: “'She would have been a good woman,' the Misfit said, 'if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.'”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random Reading Reflections: Aeneid

To write one must read. To read one must write (an inversion that doesn't work).  I am not faithful in writing, but much more faithful in reading. I seem to be reverting back to healthy practices from school, similar to starting to appreciate jogging after hating being forced to run every phys ed class. But, I never hated writing about books. A reflection on recent reading (more to come):

The Aeneid, Virgil, translated to prose by W.F. Jackson Knight

...[Juno] forced a man famed for his true-heartedness to tread that long path of adventure, and to face so many trials. It is hard to believe gods in heaven capable of such rancour.

A vivid interplay of the Roman gods and the characters of Roman legends and history – pre Romulus and Remus, starting from the end of the sack of Troy. The constant references to stories, legends, and mythical characters keeps the reader attached to wikipedia (or footnotes in a better addition) and to “ah hah!” moments, remembering mythology learned in school. Yet these references would have been common place, and expected homage, known to the everyday Roman. Fantastic experience reading in prose what would have been recited or read in flowing Latin as the popular history of the day for those in Augustus's realm.

The spiritual world remains so close, intertwined in the human actions and creating a dual narrative. Though it contrasts with notions of freewill and immortality – in this history what were the Latin antagonists responsible for if mother Juno incited their rage in war? She loved them, yet hated the Trojans more, and thus sent them to their inevitable death for the sake of a prophecy (or fate) which she knew would come true anyway. And thus only after a high price can the Trojans finally have their peace and destiny. What an epic this makes – the human drama of these Roman gods on one level and their mortal pawns (with weakened individuality) wrestling with reality, emotions and belief.

Random reflection:  The Aenid was written while Christ was living. How attractive the Gospel of Love and Grace seems in an environment with selfish superhuman gods to appease. Yet, we have these in other forms today. How often we try to thwart the inevitable or to avoid reality by harming those around us or by using others, especially those we love.

....And how to write showing the spiritual and human world so parallel?...tempting to put this into a screenplay format...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Basic Requirement

Sitting at Barnes and Noble again, wondering when I will begin. I scanned stacks of writing magazines. The smell of coffee and freshly unread pages for inspiration. The sky is blue and the snow piled high outside. I must put these journals back, go to Wal-mart to get groceries, and go home. Work, clean, research and just maybe write. The maybe's what I need to get rid of.

If I received a new notebook as a child, the first page would contain a hand-scrawled title page. The second I would leave open to be the table of contents. Then, on the third, I would begin half-way down with Chapter 1. But I don't know if my stories ever got beyond chapter one. I should search under my bed to see if I can find one of these old notebooks. And how about completing a project?

Hence I will pick up this blog again (using the excuse that I'll try, not completely 100% committing to do). What projects can I complete to truly be a writer? Many aspire, perhaps I will always just aspire. No, I'll do. Maybe. And in the process I'll chronicle it.  

My first project – publish a children's book. I have a manuscript from a few years ago that I didn't have the confidence in (or the time) to try to publish. It has been re-edited, 5 years later. And now I have begun the submission process. But I don't necessarily think the question of confidence related to the manuscript – but to myself.

Will it make it out of the piles on editor's desks? Is it good enough? Making it there will be the first step – hopefully it's not lost in the mail.

A 3-9 month waiting period, and we'll see. One electronic submission and four mailed submissions already completed. So far I've gone through the B's in my Writer's Digest for Children's Literature, researching the publishers, finding if they accept unsolicited submissions, molding to their guidelines. I must keep going to the Z's.

The basic requirement that keeps haunting me – WRITE!