Living In The Past

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What compels seemingly modest and otherwise reticent people to cast themselves out into the public arena and publish (or attempt to publish) their writing? Speaking for myself (modest?), I’d have to say that it’s a bit of a mystery. Writing is one of those hobbies/professions that truly only make sense if you have an audience. Yes, there’s The Process, the creative exuberance and the burning of the midnight oil, but the fact is that one mainly writes so that others will read what got written. Now why exactly should I suppose that the jabbering voices in my head will be of interest to anyone else?

The piece that my blog features, The Beauregarde Affair, is more or less a sliver of my life from the turbulent and dope-fueled 70’s. Genre-wise it would most likely fall into the literary category of creative nonfiction: ‘Documentable subject matter chosen from the real world as opposed to ‘invented’ from the writer’s mind.’* Most of what happens in the book did happen, in one form or another, but events have been modified, time has been compressed and obviously the dialog has been (re)constructed. Several events didn’t happen at all, but are thrown into the mix to glue the narrative together as an artistic whole. In defense of these constructions; they might not have actually occurred, but they certainly could have.

The question I have to ask myself: Is a comic account of my youth interesting enough to be read (and enjoyed) by others? Is my story – admittedly rather short on plot and narrative arc – deserving of a reader’s time and attention? Or is this merely another one of those nostalgic diaries penned by a middle-ager shooting for some last minute footprints in the sand? Since I am throwing myself out into that public arena, clearly my answer is yes, I believe that I’m presenting more than just a chunk of my life. This is a bite-size portion of Americana, a mini-chronicle showcasing a time period many are fascinated with; the wild and wooly 70’s. But that’s not all; or rather, that might not be the main focus of my writing.

Do I dwell on the past? Sometimes. Isn’t that what most middle-aged people do now and then? It’s part of the deal. But I’d like to think that TBA is both about the times and yet also outside of time. To quote Mr. T; “All this ‘be here now’ crap is for the birds. I’d rather be here later, if at all. I mean, what’s so cool about ‘here’?” What I’m mainly trying to write about is people and how complex and absurd they can be. Life often appears to make little sense and people, you and I, are frequently inadvertent comedians bumbling about the stage. Gloriously and life-affirmingly so.

To quote seminal hippie Wavy Gravy: “We are all the same person trying to shake hands with our self.” I believe that to be true, and I find that uniquely satisfying to write about.

“… but that belongs to a whole other far-away section of reality. It is a situation located in the indefinite future, and I am, for once, doing my best to Be Here Now, even if it means I will Be Sorry Later.”

* Barbara Lounsberry, from The Art of Fact: Contemporary Artists of Nonfiction

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17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rob Mahan on 04/08/2011 at 16:40

    As another aspiring writer whose first novel is approaching 400 pages and also deals with people struggling through life across several generations and two continents, I hope for both of us that there is an audience awaiting such literary perambulations.

    I truly hope the kitty gets the chicken and not the lead. You may have, however, stumbled upon the US Congress’s next negotiating tactic.

    I’ve done what I can do … hang in there, kitty.

    Reply

    • Posted by Son of Incogneato on 07/08/2011 at 21:31

      Whoa, Rob, I didn’t know you were writing. Have you got a blog or site where I can check it out?
      Btw – Kitty got the chicken. Of course he did …

      Reply

  2. Posted by Sarah on 04/08/2011 at 18:38

    I would like to read your book! In fact my friend and I were talking last night over some shared smoke while watching documentaries on netflix about the 60s and 70s and both agreed that if we could go back to any point in time or any event it would be Woodstock preferrably. So yes, us younger people would like to pry into your life and pretend like we were there.

    Hope kitty does ok!!

    Reply

    • Posted by Son of Incogneato on 07/08/2011 at 21:32

      Excellent, Sarah – nice to know the next generation is also a part of my demographic! I’ll keep you posted.
      – Uncle B

      Reply

  3. Firmly in the ‘sorry later’ group. Nice post.

    Reply

  4. Posted by ingkris on 05/08/2011 at 01:19

    You! You! Keep writing!

    Reply

  5. Posted by Hannah Warren on 09/08/2011 at 11:48

    Great blog, don’t shoor the kitten, have mercy on thyself and the pretty little one.

    Reply

    • Posted by Son of Incogneato on 09/08/2011 at 12:19

      Kitten safe. It was a toy gun anyhow (nabbed from my son – I wouldn’t have a real one). I’d rather cut off my own foot than hurt a whisker on little Diesel’s furry face …

      Reply

  6. Posted by Hannah Warren on 09/08/2011 at 11:49

    SHOOT!!

    Reply

  7. Well, speaking of someone who’s already devoured that sliver of your life (in its written form, of course, given that I am SO much younger than you), I can say, yes, people ARE interested to read about the dope-led meanderings of a bunch of misfits.

    Do we spend too much time looking backwards? That’s debatable – it has benefits and drawbacks… overall I think a bit of nostalgia is good, a bit of vicarious indulgence likewise. It’s a great book – it doesn’t need a narrative arc… but, in any case, it does have one. That poor damn snake and its fellow creatures provide the arc.

    I can’t wait to see it in print.

    Reply

    • Posted by Son of Incogneato on 09/08/2011 at 12:17

      And Ms. Dent is hereby the winner of the free Beauregarde hug and kiss prize.

      Reply

    • Posted by Son of Incogneato on 09/08/2011 at 12:31

      I was so blinded by the good stuff that I missed the slur. I’ll have to find a nice slur of my own.
      Maybe I could make it over for the Flower Festival. I’m sure The Wife won’t mind …

      Reply

  8. Oh…well all I know is the ‘bunch of misfits’ you so aptly describe would resound heavily with a group of people I knew…but really were we ‘misfits’ or just non-conformists who have followed a different drummer? I used to see Wavy at every Whole Earth Festival in Davis for something like 20 years, until I moved…and yeah back then we all shook hands with ourselves, with trees, flowers and snakes even! It’s a great book and well worth a large readership…would make a nice little indie film as well!

    Reply

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