Sunday, September 27, 2009

Let me see you write a better one

Michener 1,515 / Hemingway 308

My reading dry spell ended abruptly a week or ten days ago when I picked up one of my copies of "Centennial" by James Michener and began reading it for the sixth time. I frequently write inside books I own, even some old, first editions. Book values? Who cares? Inside a paperback copy I have this written:

"Re-read this book December 21-26, 1978. First read it two or three years ago. Been re-reading a lot this fall." Other re-read dates are 1980, 1984 and 1998. In addition, I have read my favorite chapters, three through seven, three additional times. Some books become a part of you.

This book is not a minor project. The paperback version is 1,086 pages. The hardback is 909 pages. I began this time by making myself read for a mere thirty minutes a day. Sort of like an exercise routine and, just like exercise, putting in an extra half-hour here and there is not a sin.

I am not certain when I first began reading Michener. Probably in high school. I had read an even dozen of his books (at least once) before he finally wore me out. He could write more than I could read, and published about forty books altogether, including both fiction and non-fiction.

My favorite genre is the historical novel, and by that I do not mean books where the emphasis is on wizards or knights wearing tights or fairy tales. Michener is an excellent example of a legitimate historical novelist. His success as an author gave him the ability to hire dozens of historical researchers and to visit the geographic locales (actually to live in them for a few months) he wished to write about and to interview people whose ancestors had been history incarnate.

Once the bait is tasted, the hook is swallowed. I had a very explicable urge to re-read Ernest Hemingway's "Across the River and Into the Trees." This came after, I might add, someone told me she was reading some of Hemingway's first forty-nine short stories. I joined in long enough to grab my copy and to fall under the spell of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."

My selection of "Across the River, etc." was the result of wanting to tour Venice through the eyes of Hemingway -- to hunt ducks, to pursue young ladies, to eat and to drink and to soak in the Venetian atmosphere as it existed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many consider this to be Hemingway's weakest novel. To which I say, let me see you write a better one.

Once upon a time, I had a copy of "Across the River, etc." It has now vanished, disappeared, been swallowed up by time -- whatever. So, I turned to our ever-present ally to find anything and everything, the Internet, and in four-days received a first edition copy in fine condition (other than a very tattered dust cover). Let the reading begin.

The tale opens with duck hunting, which I no long do or even like, but I am able to identify with Hemingway's protagonist, Colonel Cantwell, and with the sights and sounds of being in a marsh covered with thin ice as the sun rises. His (Hemingway's / Cantwell's) marsh is a salt marsh just outside of Venice. Mine, for the most part, were in Minnesota. Other than location, everything is the same -- the sights and the sounds. These are the things that are most remembered from the experience of a hunt.

Most events which are near-identical in nature, such as hunting ducks in a marsh, are little different no matter where they occur, I think. Only the geographic location is different; all else is the same. I am not certain how much changing the location affects the event itself. Anyway, back on subject: I am enjoying the book, which at 308 pages is tiny compared to the works of Michener.

Finally, if this were not enough, I decided I need more and more and more, so I returned to the Internet and ordered a copy of "Poland" -- another book from the wandering Michener which doubles as a paper weight. This one is sort of brief for him, only 616 pages in the hardback edition.

Curiosity might be my downfall some day. I latch onto events or people or places because I want to know them and to experience them first-hand. Michener was hired to do a documentary of any country in the world of his own choice. He chose Poland. Why? Why Poland? I know inside myself that I have to read this book if I ever hope to discover his reason.

What evolved from this project were years of research, several trips to Poland and four years spent writing the novel. Why? Why? Why? "The devil drives," as some character in some novel once said.

In the instance of Fram Actual, Nicolai Gogol might have discovered a more logical explanation and described it in his short novel (or long short story -- take your pick), "Taras Bulba." If I seem to speak in riddles and your curiosity matches mine, read our ascetic, Ukrainian friend's book and, possibly, discover the answer to the riddle while enjoying a story our narcissistic, Michigan buddy, Hemingway, once proclaimed to be among the ten best books in the history of literature.

Life is a non sequitur.

Go Your Own Way

Ever see a Fleetwood Mac concert way back when? Here is a sample of the band's sound once upon a time, and on this occasion playing undoubtedly its greatest song, "Go Your Own Way." This is from a 1982 performance in Los Angeles. Most definitely chair dancing music.

Back then, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass guitar player John McVie appeared to have just arrived from an audition to act the role of Grigori Rasputin in a horror film, but look like kindly, old grandfathers today. Lindsey Buckingham was and still is a fine song writer and singer, and a virtuoso on the guitar. Stevie Nicks was a great singer and, in my mind, the most beautiful woman on the earth. Now that she is about 60, I think it would be only fair to move her down to the No. 3 or No. 4 position among the most radiant women in the world. Ah, yes, the allure of mature women. Other band members have come and gone.

You might note that an occasional stuffed animal is tossed upon the stage or handed to Stevie. This was a tradition, and probably still is, for her and for many Fleetwood Mac concert-goers. She took these stuffed toys, as well as others she purchased herself, and personally distributed them to kids who were undergoing medical treatment in children's hospitals.

Two thoughts:

(1) Anyone can quietly make a positive difference in the world without disrupting the lives of others or shouting, "Look at me." Someone should advise politicians of this fact.

(2) And, the type of music an individual prefers -- whether it be classical, jazz, country, rock and roll, gospel, Broadway and show tunes, pop, Christian, blues or whatever -- tells you absolutely nothing about the inner nature of that individual.

Life can be fascinating when it is read between the lines.

Go Your Own Way

Loving you
Isn't the right thing to do
How can I ever change things
That I feel

If I could
Maybe I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won't take it from me

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way

Tell me why
Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up is all you wanna' do

If I could
Baby I'd give you my world
Open up
Everything’s waiting for you

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way


Magdalena said...

Suuuper! This is my favourite post of Fram the Wolf. I think he chose Poland, because it is the best country on earth, ok, maybe Italy can be the same, and America, of course :-) Do not forget to check personally if he was correct in his writing :-)

It was great time to me blogging with you, and I hope we will meet this way again, one day.

Bye, bye.

ps. You've got very nice Marine jacket :-)

Fram Actual said...

Yes, Polish girl, who has replaced Stevie Nicks as the most beautiful woman in the world. You might very well be correct.

Yes, I will personally verify James Michener knew what he was talking about in all regards.

Yes, your visits to me have been enjoyed and appreciated, and your own blog has been one of great beauty, particularly in art and music and philosophical wisdom, and I am genuinely saddened to see it depart. But, that will happen to all; it is a matter of time only. And, yes, one day.

Yes, it is beneficial not only to read between the lines, but to look here, there and everywhere in a photograph. At times, the background is the most revealing. Semper Fidelis, Marine girl.

A Cuban In London said...

I second that last thought. If I was to show people my playlist for tonight's reading round (when I usually read online copies of newspapers around the world) they could not possibly pigeonhole into a any category. Nor would I want to.

Greetings from London.

PS: On the eighth day came the guitar? Oh, yes, keep rocking on, mate.

Something special ....