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Terreson Profile
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Re: Open Faces, Opening Places ( an explanation)


Thanks for letting me know, Chris. Nothing more need be said. Harrowing works just fine. Ever since starting to post the novel instalments, knowing it all would bring me back to this Saturday night, I've been dreading having to revisit it. Still some story to tell, about 50 pages worth, and still the blues, but nothing like this. If every novel, as I believe, must have its nadir point and absolute descent into hell, without which descent there can be no resurrection, the convenience store parking lot scene is this novel's.

Tere
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Hi Tere,

Harrowing is a good word to describe this scene. I remember when I commented on an earlier equally harrowing scene, you warned us that it wouldn't be the last. This section is well-written and very nuanced. You say of Richard: "When on the scene he bears the honest witness." But it's more than that. He/you see the larger picture, as evidenced by the last paragraph that begins:

"So there it was, and leaving the scene of another rock n roll friend. There it happened again, the quick and simple way a rock n roller’s luck can go completely thin, can leave any one of them to their own puny measures for swimming through the sea of these Saturday night things. Every hateful time it happens there are all the likenesses of all the others who have gone down, either to the booze, the loves, the drugs, the rage, the loneliness, or just to the speed of rock n roll’s sped up film clip."

You also say: "Still some story to tell, about 50 pages worth, and still the blues, but nothing like this. If every novel, as I believe, must have its nadir point and absolute descent into hell, without which descent there can be no resurrection, the convenience store parking lot scene is this novel's."

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the story, the denouement that also includes a resurrection? I was wondering if you had the plot of the novel mapped out before you started writing, or did you just start writing and follow the road that opened up as you you went along? Either way, it is a compellng journey with many twists and turns, many layers and stories within the overarching storyline, and all of it told as only you could tell it.
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Re: Open Faces, Opening Places ( an explanation)


Thanks, Kat. You do have a way of going to the crux of the thing. Think on something. Had the novel not fleshed out the details of the convenience store parking lot scene, the "So there it was..." paragraph would not have been earned, not honest, not illustrated. Art does that, you know. It fleshes out the argument's logic.

About your inquiry. This was my first novel and presented a steap learning curve. First draft was written in the month of February, a 28 day month, and at white heat pace. Then I put it away for another month, during which time I remember sun bathing, surf fishing, tending bar, and reading a late Hemingway thing. Then I went back to the draft, read it through and thought, oh no, this is not the story I mean to tell.

Then I got serious and deliberate. First draft gave me the outline. Second writing brought about texture, atmosphere, character developments. In a good day I got a decent couple of sentences down. In an unusual day I got a paragraph down. In an extraordinary day I got a page down. That is how it went for about 15 months.

I learned a big lesson with that novel. Go tectonic. Be sensible to layer, nuance, shifting plates, and deep time. Next novel got two years of note taking and outlining before the first sentence was made.

Tere
Jun/5/2011, 10:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Open Faces, Opening Places ( an explanation)


It has been three weekends since my last installment. Just taking a small break before continueing. But I want to share something about form.

Most people have seen that extraordinary movie, Dangerous Liasons. Lit nerd that I am I know it was based on a late 18th C novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses. And I read that novel, Oh Christ, in '73 I think it was. I was in my French lit phase. Great story, by the way. Even better than the movie and here is partly why.

The sub-genre is called the epistolary novel. Author one Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. The whole of the narrative is contained in an exchange of letters between the two decadent aristocrats who set out to seduce, and so subvert, an innocent and virtuous woman, Michelle Pfieffer's character. (And isn't Glenn Close the absolutely wicked decadent?)

Anyway, all those years I remembered that novel. I've always thought: what a cool idea! A novel whose narrative, the whole of its action, is contained in an exchange of letters. It doesn't get much more French than that. A real parlor game conducted by the supremely bored and wealthy. It makes sense the French would have come up with such a game. So far as I know they invented it. Just as they invented the sub-genre of the prose poem, with antecedents in the same century and also, initially, a parlor game.

Y'all probably know where I am going here. My novel can't be properly called epistolary. But it is related, which was my design. A novel whose narrative, the whole of its action, is contained in a journal kept to document on the scene what it means to live by the rules, the pathos and ethos, of Rock n Roll's emotional, damn near manic way. And the twist in which the journalist himself is implicated, and compromised, in it all. Sounds almost post-Modern n'est pas? Whatever that is.

I cannot think of a precedent for this. If someone else can please give me the heads up. The closest I can come would be, say, the memoirs of Casanova, another delightful read I also read in the early 70s. Maybe that is also where I got the idea. Don't know.

(as an aside. The movie did cop out on one point. In the end, the hero is redeemed. He falls in love with the innocent and virtuous woman and so loses his amorality. In the novel he is not redeemed, not as I remember at least. That is Hollywood for you.)

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Jun/12/2011, 6:51 pm
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Open Faces, Opening Places ( an explanation)


Hi Tere,

Anyway, all those years I remembered that novel. I've always thought: what a cool idea! A novel whose narrative, the whole of its action, is contained in an exchange of letters. It doesn't get much more French than that. A real parlor game conducted by the supremely bored and wealthy. It makes sense the French would have come up with such a game. So far as I know they invented it. Just as they invented the sub-genre of the prose poem, with antecedents in the same century and also, initially, a parlor game.

Your mention an 18th century epistolary novel reminded me of Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady, an epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson, published in 1748. I've never read it, but a friend often teaches it. As a way of having students engage with the work, he has them take on the role of various characters in the book and write "missing" letters to each other, which they seem to enjoy.

A novel whose narrative, the whole of its action, is contained in a journal kept to document on the scene what it means to live by the rules, the pathos and ethos, of Rock n Roll's emotional, damn near manic way. And the twist in which the journalist himself is implicated, and compromised, in it all. Sounds almost post-Modern n'est pas? Whatever that is.

Although not all of the narrative is presented in a journal format, one novel I thought of that does make use of the journal format is Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, published in 1962:

"The Golden Notebook is the story of writer Anna Wulf, the four notebooks in which she keeps the record of her life, and her attempt to tie them all together in a fifth, gold-colored notebook. The book intersperses segments of an ostensibly realistic narrative of the lives of Molly and Anna, and their children, ex-husbands and lovers—entitled Free Women—with excerpts from Anna's four notebooks, coloured black (of Anna's experience in Central Africa, before and during WWII, which inspired her own bestselling novel), red (of her experience as a member of the Communist Party), yellow (an ongoing novel that is being written based on the painful ending of Anna's own love affair), and blue (Anna's personal journal where she records her memories, dreams, and emotional life). Each notebook is returned to four times, interspersed with episodes from Free Women, creating non-chronological, overlapping sections that interact with one another. This post-modernistic styling, with its space and room for "play" engaging the characters and readers, is among the most famous features of the book, although Lessing insisted that readers and reviewers pay attention to the serious themes in the novel."

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I did an independent study on the book back in college, and a few months ago it occurred to me that one of the reasons I wasn't as fascinated and impressed with some of the recent explorations into consciousness, especially those that emphasize a splintered self or multiple selves within the self, was because I read Lessing's novel back then and had basically been blown away by it.

All that being said, there is still something unique I think about your novel, both stylistically and thematically. I know I've never read anything quite like it. Thanks for outlining how the book came to be written. With all the layers, nuance and foreshadowing involved, I figured the book had undergone some shaping, honing and rewriting. Interesting though that the first draft was written in a white heat during one month's time frame. The exact opposite of the slow, deliberate pace of the rewrite.

Last edited by Katlin, Jun/13/2011, 7:38 am
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Re: Open Faces, Opening Places ( an explanation)


Hey Tere,

Was wondering if we can expect a new installment of your novel soon? Hoping so.
Jun/24/2011, 9:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Open Faces, Opening Places ( an explanation)


Prepped the next 5 pages a few days ago. You know I am taking advantage of the moment to do a little rewriting. Another installment coming tomorrow. I kind of like this next scene and the one following.

Tere
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Installment up for the weekend. Thought it was going to be easy, but I had forgotten just how existential the moment got. !@#$. There is nothing easy about this novel.

Tere
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Re: Open Faces, Opening Places ( an explanation)


Love that last post, Tere. I think it's my favorite so far.

Chris
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Funny, Chris. I was thinking tha same yesterday while typing it up. It is almost a story in itself, isn't it? It's got that French thing, a certain je ne sais quois. But I have to be honest about it. Once again I borrowed, or stole, from Joyce's Ulysses. From the scene when Bloom (older man) and Daedalus (younger man) meet up late in the night and walk the streets of Dublin together. Anyway, any one get how complicated the character of Hugh really is? The dumpster sequence tickles me to no end. I was in my mid thirties when I created him. I'll be 60 in a few months. Thirty years of some pretty hard living later and I have a different perspective of the man. And you ain't seen the last of him yet. Thanks again.

Tere
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Hi Tere,

Glad to see Hugh reappear and to get a glimpse of an unexpected side to him.
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Thanks, Kat. Yeah. What is behind all of Hugh's posturing comes through, I hope. A man who is built around all the beautiful scabs he has drawn in order to cover the pain. Most of us are like that, yes. I've decided Richard has a huge fault line running down the middle of him. When he starts to understand motive his tendancy is to forgive action.

Tere
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Another installmet typed, then posted. One more installment finishes off chapter 7. Then one last full chapter, followed by a sort of postscript. I said last week I borrowed, or stole, from James Joyce his late night scene of two men, one older, walking the streets of Dublin. I remember how Bloom was out late that night, knowing his wife, an opera singer, was bedding with a man. And Daedalus is out late, walking, because he is young, restless, and about to leave Dublin in his self-imposed exile. Here, Hugh is out late needing to decide if he will keep on keeping on. Richard is out late, walking, trying to keep in front of pain. I've decided these many years later I've made the idea and schematic my own. I've decided something else too. This Saturday night of theirs is one hell of a night. And all true to form. Just as I remember how a Saturday night can be, can turn on itself, go unexpected.

Tere
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Something else. Not to give too much away but Mr. Plutarch is one of my more serendipitous creations. That Richard understands such a character rather gives him away. I am guilty of being inordinately fond of my sister of mercy too. Both characters have their models down in old St. Augustine.

Tere
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Last post was a pleasure to read, Tere. The atmosphere and the characters are palpable.

Chris
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Thanks, Chris, for keeping with the story. Palpable? That is a high thing to say.

Tere
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Something else. Not to give too much away but Mr. Plutarch is one of my more serendipitous creations. That Richard understands such a character rather gives him away. I am guilty of being inordinately fond of my sister of mercy too. Both characters have their models down in old St. Augustine.

As I was reading the latest installment, but before I read your comment, I was thinking about the parallel between Richard and Mr. Plutarch, thinking that the reason for Richard's hesitancy in interrupting the man is the recognition of his own similar concentration and solitude when he is in a barroom writing. So, yes, "That Richard understands such a character rather gives him away."

The sister(s) of mercy reference reminds me of Cohen's song, one of my favorites by him.

Was thinking, too, that with the advent of the internet and youtube, this novel could now go interactive, i.e., links to the songs referenced could be put into the online text for readers/listeners to click on for context and enjoyment.

Last edited by Katlin, Jul/8/2011, 1:57 pm
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Allow my language, please. But good God damn! I had not once thought of the interactive possibility! How many songs are alluded to here anyway? Dozens at least. This might drive me crazy, Kat. A dimension, being too writerly, I hadn't considered.

I see you caught the other allusion. I've known that Cohen song since the early '70s. I had it in mind when making this particular diner scene. And Plutarch? Just checked. I still have a copy of his "Lives". His idea was to draw parallels between the lives of great men living in different epochs.

Thank you for the input.

Tere
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And Plutarch? Just checked. I still have a copy of his "Lives". His idea was to draw parallels between the lives of great men living in different epochs.

Very interesting, Tere, I did not know that.
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And you just touched on one of the story's puns. How can Richard get the absorptions of a late night scholar, Mr. Plutarch, if he doesn't know the ancient Plutarch's big book? A parallel. Then the parallel between Annie, pregnant and about to abort, and Sheila, pregnant and about to deliver. Between Monica and Melissa I see a parallel. Between Tara's Morning Star and the diner's sister of mercy, another parallel.

I took out several pages describing the parallel between Sean and Richard. It struck me as too discursive. I might decide to put it back in.

Tere
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Okay, damn it. Kat, I don't know if I should thank you or not. I've thought on the ommitted passage tracing a cetain parallel between Sean and Richard, the two bartenders and pretty boys gotten older. I really don't want to return it to chapter two. It compromises Richard's authorial dominance of the narrative, his position as observer. But I get that without it the dynamic between Sean and Richard, the parallel that draws Richard to Sean in the first place, gets stripped. I don't want to do this. The passage makes Richard entirely too human for my taste. Let me finish the story in progress. Then I will go back, put back in the censored out pages. Sure don't want to do this. Have no choice. Well, anyway, even Goethe exposed himself in his first novel.

Tere
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Okay. The last installment of chapter 7 is posted. Damn hard it was to type out again, at least until after Dennis is killed. I heard something that tickled me the other day. In an interview the author says she cries everytime one of her characters die. One day her husband says to her: you mean it makes you sad when one of your characters die? She says yes. He then says to her: but you're the one who kills them. I get his point. I also get her truth.

Tere
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Kat, somehow I missed your informative post involving Richardson and Lessing. Reading it only today. Sorry about that. I had forgotten about Richardson's novel. Published in 1748 pushes it back in time. I have assumed the epistolary novel to be a French invention, but maybe not. Would your friend who teaches Clarissa know? I am curious.

I cannot speak to Lessing, mostly only knowing who she is and what she does, knowing also she is a thinker to be taken seriously. Interesting the comparison you make between her Golden Notebooks and the much later post-modernist experiments in narrative. It has been discussed before, perhaps too many times, but continually I think I find there is very little new, if anything at all, in those same (self-consciously?) new post-modernist experiments. You present me with another point in case. Again, sorry for the oversight.

Anyway, my next chaper is called Friends and Lovers. It might be the novel's best. Always save the best for last. If not the best, certainly the most ambitious.

Tere
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Hi Tere,

Finished reading Chapter 7 today. Richard meeting up with Melissa again at the end gives the chapter a feeling of coming full circle.

I looked up the epistolary novel in the Oxford Companion to English Literature:

"A story written in the form of letters, or letters and journals, and usually presented by an anonymous author masquerading as an 'editor'. The first notable example in English was a translation from the French in 1678, Letters from a Portugese Nun. In 1683 A. Behn published Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister, and many similar tales of illicit love and love manuals followed. Thus when Richardson, the first and perhaps greatest master of the form, came to write Pamela (1741) he felt a duty to to rescue the novel from its tainted reputation."

So, it looks like you were right to attribute the form to the French.

Looking forward to the next Friends and Lovers chapter.
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Terreson Profile
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Well, Kat, hold onto to that sense of coming full circle. I don't know if anyone has noticed a recurring image. Tara's front door is a swinging door. It opens out and it opens in. It lets out and it lets in. I cannot think of a better metaphor for living by the rules of rock n roll emotions.

And thanks for the info on the epistolary novel. Guess I hadn't traced the antecedents of the form back far enough. Not at all surprised that it was originally French in provenance. You really are missing your calling, you know. You should be a research librarian in the employ of the CIA or M15. If China woos you we are clearly screwed.

Tere
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And Plutarch? Just checked. I still have a copy of his "Lives". His idea was to draw parallels between the lives of great men living in different epochs.

Hey Tere,

Thought you might be interested in these translations of Plutarch by A. E. Stalling, "Laconic Women":

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Okay. Having procrastinated since the middle of July I've made the next installment. Chapter 8 has begun. The installment is longer than has been the case up until now. Length unavoidable. Viewed as a movement it is of a piece.

If anyone is still reading I have a question. Again, novel was first penned in '87. Neither before or since have I come across a writer who has tried to transcribe music into word and image. Vachel Lindsay adopted the rhythms and cadences of jazz to punctuate his poetry. Langston Hughes sometimes did the same. Herman Hesse approached the sounds of jazz in his Steppenwolf novel. E.E. Cummings painted the sounds of jazz. But I don't know of any writer who has, so to speak, transliterated music. Or at least tried.

I remember coming to the chapter. I remember thinking that talking about music is not close enough. I had to somehow express the musical means themselves. It wasn't just an ambition, though it was that. It was a matter of honest expression.

Of all the music makers I followed then, my fictional band, Duck Blind, I followed closest. Decoy was the band's real name. Between breaks I got to know each of the three members. I told them what I was doing. They all knew I would use them as models. Before long, everyone in the bar knew what I was doing. In otyher bars too. If anyone minded they never said. I got to be friends with everybody. But I knew that mine was an anthropological study of sorts. While tempted nightly I never crossed a certain line. Not even with the woman whose name here is Melissa. Then, I congratulated myself for a sense of professionalism. Now, I have regrets, have to remind myself that that way of life can kill.

Tere
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Hi Tere,

I have read your latest installment. Will need to reread it. It took me a few minutes to enter into the writing and make the connection to music in the way I think you intended. First connection made here:

"or when he sets the strings of his guitar to mewing like a seagull, while all the time circling in the plainsong of his imagination until the whole room finally swallows its vertigo and can go circling with him."

Then I lost the rhythm but picked it up again here, in the paragraph beginning, "A Duck Blind has already made its way through the different schools of R&B.":

"the sounds that have taken them through the broken back streets of any of a number of windy cities, and out onto the freeway where a blues tune can become a steadily driven thing."

Kept it then to the end of that paragraph, which is my favorite part in this installment.

Ah, the ending of this section:

"And Richard figures he is ready to come out of their musical thing, pick up on the skein of what went down, today, before he came into Tara’s Place. Not that it is so difficult a tale to tell, since, it only needs a few words. It is just another one of those double duty things that keeps on happening, that Richard has started to think of as a carpenter’s kind of tongue and groove fitting. Sean left, today, and Melissa is gone too. Sean made off for somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Melissa left on a refitted sailing ship, the Lord Jim, headed for the islands with Hugh. An earth turned beauty left town, today, having barely come in on a wet west wind. Gone now. Sailing out on a sailor’s jib boom."

So Melissa sailed of with Hugh? I didn't see that coming.

 
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Thanks, Kat. Kind of glad the story catches you unaware. Up until now Melissa has almost been a chorus line kind of gal. Think on it. She isn't. It is plain she incited the story even before the reader met her. Now it is clear she has her own mind. And what about Hugh? Richard's spiritual father. That seems pretty clear. A case of double betrayal. So how is this Richard to process a case of the blues?

Tere
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New installment up. A paragraph. A segue.

Tere
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