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Dad's Thriller


Here’s how it is in my family, West Coast of America, 1960’s: Mom and Dad and four kids all talking at once at the dinner table. Hot L.A. sunshine shimmering above the cheap roofs of the tract houses. Ice water, dry piece of meat, potato and salad with vinegar, white bread and sometimes ice cream, served by Mom.

And disputation. Loud take-no-prisoners arguments while the food is wolfed. No charm, no manners, no diplomacy. But also, no offense taken, no bullying, no feelings hurt—we’re used to clamoring over each other. Dad talks about his job—another co-worker dropped dead at fifty from a heart attack today. I may not be around long, kids, he says, but then he smiles and cracks a joke or tells another story.

Dad does die, at 53. By then, he and Mom are long-separated. Dad’s renting a new bachelor pad in Laguna Beach. He’s standing on his new balcony one balmy night, admiring the moon on the ocean, leaning against the railing thirty feet above the rocky beach, cigarette in one hand, brandy in the other, blood alcohol at .22, a full stomach from dinner with his landlady, pleasant thoughts afloat in his mind. Then there’s a tiny shift in his balance and he corrects in the wrong direction. Next thing he knows, he’s going over, oh !@#$ I’m sure he says, and his damn hands are full, he can’t grab a thing to save himself. He crashes on the rocks and looks up at the moon and dies.

That death of Dad’s—what a commotion it caused in our family. If it wasn’t womanizing or unemployment or wanting to change jobs or houses again, if it wasn’t drinking and gambling, if it wasn’t deciding to make a doomed run for political office or dropping out of his correspondence law school, it was this commotion that topped them all, this fall off a balcony, forever falling since he left a mystery that made it impossible to lay him to rest.


My brother Patrick and I drive down to L.A. to deal with Dad’s death. Mom’s in a state--she’s rolling her eyes, paranoid, saying she thinks he was pushed. Maybe he really was a spy after all, she says.

My brother’s theory is suicide. Pat says Dad told him once that he didn’t plan to get old.

The Medical Examiner can’t decide if it’s accident or illness. Either Dad struck his head on the rocks and an aneurysm burst, or the aneurysm burst and made him lose his balance. My theory is set forth above—drunken carelessness and a glorious moon.

Besides this controversy, Pat and I find that Dad’s apartment is empty except for basic furniture. He hadn’t quite moved in, and we don’t know where his old digs are. The girlfriend has all his clothes and possessions and drove off in his red Sunbird before we got there. Dad’s been out of touch, and we sure would like to have a keepsake of his. We don’t even have an old sock to sniff.

Next stop, Dad’s workplace. He was a faceless bureaucrat for the Defense Department downtown. We follow his route to work over clogged freeways to his enormous parking lot, sun softening the asphalt in its ferocity, and walk into the decrepit federal building with its green walls.

Awaiting us in his office, his half-dozen mates gather round, and they are really sorry to see Dad go. He was a cutup, left early, signed anything you put in front of him, laughed and told his jokes. We learn that Dad told a few doozies about his family—promoted Pat from law student applicant to proud member of the Bar, for instance. Pat and I look at each other and wince and cover for him. After all, he’s freshly dead.

We should have known there’d be a surprise waiting in Dad’s desk drawer. This particular surprise is a paperback book called Trauma, some kind of mass-market thriller judging by the cover, written by P. J. O’Shaughnessy.

That’s interesting, P and J are my initials, Pamela June, and O’Shaughnessy, that’s our family name, and not a name we’ve ever seen on a book before.

Another surprise is in the opposite drawer—a yellow legal tablet, pages dense with Dad’s tall artistic handwriting—he wrote in a hand that could have been attached to Lord Byron—thirty pages of longhand. It’s untitled and unsigned. The text matches exactly the first couple of chapters of the published paperback. No cross-outs.

Did Dad write a book? You’d think this was pretty good evidence, but you have to understand, Dad told stories.


For instance. When we were youngsters, Dad told us he was Superman. He did look just like George Reeves, the TV Superman with his thick Clark Kent glasses. He was handsome and elusive and he would come home from work, pass around a pack of gum, and tell us about almost getting caught in his real clothes at work. We never checked under the suit, not because we stayed gullible for long but because we just didn’t want to know.

He had us going for a while with that one. Then the Cold War got hot and he told us he was a spy.

He never did give up on the spy story. Years after he died, a drinking buddy of his named Paul e-mailed me and told me Dad was a great guy, but wacky. He said one time Dad disappeared for a few days without telling his girlfriend. When he finally came back, he told her he’d been on a secret mission behind the Iron Curtain. The mission included rescuing Paul, his fellow agent. Dad was so good explaining this that when Paul heard about it and told the girlfriend it was a bunch of hooey, she patted his arm and said, “Of course you’d have to say that.”

Dad probably went to Las Vegas to play blackjack that time. That’s how we spent our vacations growing up, driving through the scorching Mojave Desert to Vegas and parking our sunburned little asses in the pool of a low-class motel while Dad and Mom gambled. Dad always said he won, and Mom got a huge kick out of all the excitement, even if the truth might have been that they lost the rent money.

Maybe that’s why we moved so much. Once I counted up the different tract houses I had lived in all over the LA Basin and before that, in Missouri, Mississippi, and Colorado. It came to sixteen places in my first twelve years. After Dad died, my sister Mary got up the nerve to ask Mom why we moved every few months. She looked up from her newspaper and said, “We got bored, I guess.”

When Dad and Mom separated, he found a young honey with a couple of small kids. That’s all we knew, because we took Mom’s side and wouldn’t visit him. I was a grown-up, a lawyer, the year before Dad died, and one day I got a package in the mail from the girlfriend. She had sewn me a huge stuffed mouse toy with nylon whiskers and a tiny red apron, and enclosed a card printed in big letters saying she hoped some day she could meet me and my little brother. She also wrote down her phone number. Full of righteousness and venom, I couldn’t resist calling her and telling her Dad forgot to mention a couple of his extra kids, and by the way, I wasn't nine years old like he said. I didn’t even bother to tell her he was still married to Mom.

In truth, I didn’t feel any solidarity with Dad by then. I actually enjoyed hearing the hurt in the girlfriend’s voice that afternoon when I debunked him. I guess I considered him a stuffed rat himself.

Then the letter came, about four months before Dad died. I hadn’t had a letter from Dad in ten years, so I opened it with a great deal of curiosity. Dad’s writing was as elegant as ever on the sheets of yellow legal paper. The affair of the stuffed rat was discreetly avoided. He wanted my siblings’ phone numbers and addresses so he could get back in touch. He talked about his job, golf game, his latest diet and his upcoming move to Laguna Beach. At the bottom, he wrote: “I am finally writing a book and have somebody to type it. Who knows, maybe it’ll make a splash.”


I’m holding this Grade B thriller in my hands at Dad’s office, thinking about his letter. “D’you think he wrote this?” I ask Pat.

Pat shakes his head. We both smile, and I look at the copyright page and say, “Yeah, this book was published last year. His last letter said he was writing a book and that was four months ago.” Q.E.D. I’m a smart young lawyer, good at finding logical inconsistencies. Dad had always wanted to be a lawyer, had told his bar cronies he’d saved a few defendants himself, but that’s another story.

My brother says, “He saw the same last name as ours on this book and bought it. He copied the first part of it in longhand and—and—”

“And asked his girlfriend to type it,” I say in wonder. “That’s what he did. Slaved away copying this thing out word for word because it was the easiest way to get the job done. Kept them both convinced he was a man of letters. I wonder if he was going to lay the book on us.”

What else could we think? Writing was another dream of Dad’s, so, in the crazy shortcut way he became all sorts of things, in the same way he became Superman and a spy, we decided he had made himself into a writer without ever putting a sentence together on his own.

I think we threw Dad’s “manuscript” into the black federal government trash can along with the book. We were a little disgusted, and we had real things to take care of, like trying to pincer out a pension for Mom from the Feds.



We took Dad’s ashes to the ocean. Dad had always loved the beach. He’d come a long way from his days selling the Post-Dispatch on St.Louis street corners, keeping a sharp eye out for Big Red, his own father, who sometimes strong-armed Dad out of his profits of nickels and cigarettes. Big Red left town when Dad was twelve. Dad’s mother, a tough Volga German lady off a Kansas farm, threw away the wedding pictures and never spoke of Big Red again.

That’s how we lost touch with Dad’s side of the family and the connection to Ireland. Years later I called an old man with our surname in St. Louis and he turned out to be Dad’s second cousin. I begged him for some scrap of family history. I was old enough to care by then. He thought for a while, hawked into the phone and finally said, “Well, we were known as great bullshitters.”

After Big Red took to the rails, or whatever he did for the rest of his life, Dad took care of himself, joined the Navy, and met my genteel young mother at a USO dance in Berkeley, California. The rest is family lore: me born when she was barely twenty-one, the first family home in a converted gas station, more kids popping rapidly up like targets in a carnival airgun game, Mom losing her teeth from the stress, Dad trying to find a way to support us and somehow keep his dreams alive too. He tried insurance sales and aerospace, lied on job applications about graduating from college, and put food on the table.

As soon as we could get by on our own, he took off. I think he was happy after that, taking it easy, telling stories, drinking his Korbel and smoking his Luckies.

Looking back, he achieved at least one of his dreams, moving from a grungy midwest street corner to a beach place in California, money in his pocket at last. There’s a photo of him in his swim trunks and straw hat, facing away from the camera so you only see his broad tanned back and his hands folded behind him, looking out at the blue Pacific. He had his eye on Hawaii but never made it that far toward Paradise.

We scattered his ashes off a boat near Balboa and Mom sang Danny Boy, Dad’s favorite song. Dad was always singing and humming pop songs, and he had the purest whistle I’ve ever heard. Mom stayed on key while I blubbered like a deserted daughter, even though, let’s face it, I thought Dad was a fuckup and let everybody know it.

It’s funny about Hawaii and the law thing and the singing thing. Years after Dad died I pushed my toes into the sand at Kailua Beach, where I lived on Oahu, and thought, damn, I’m living out his Hawaii dream. Dad had wanted to be a lawyer, but instead I had become a lawyer, and Mom went to law school after Dad left home and became a damn fine lawyer herself, and Pat became a worker’s compensation lawyer in Salinas, California. We’re all singers and whistlers and hummers, and Pat and I used to gamble and drink some, all just like Dad. Nobody smokes though, because Mom got emphysema and had a rough few years before she finally gave in at a Monterey hospital a few years ago.

A time came, some years after Dad died, when my own marriage was in trouble and I started searching my miserable analytical lawyer soul for the layer that had once been under there, the layer that liked singing and telling stories. Dad was waiting down there to be forgiven for being a liar and a fuckup and for falling off his balcony, and we had quite a session. In the end I told him that it was all right, we’d all coped pretty well in life, and the uproar hadn’t been all that bad. Ever since, I’ve been a nicer person to know.

Not too long after that I divorced, found a rental in town, put my son in a new school, quit my law job, and started writing legal thrillers with my sister Mary. I’d always written songs and poems on the side but never thought I could make a living doing something I really wanted to do.

Mary kept saying, “We might as well give it a shot.” I could hear Dad’s voice echoing in that line. So we put together a novel nobody wanted, but we didn’t quit, and the second novel sold, and now we’re fixtures on paperback bookshelves. Pat finished a novel himself, which isn’t easy considering that he carried about seven hundred clients. It was a thriller too, something about a cowboy hat and a key. Meg has written a thriller too, set at Lake Tahoe and Mexico.


A few winters ago, we’re sitting around on Christmas Day, snow falling on Lake Tahoe outside the picture window, all four of us, Pat lounging on the couch in his sweats, Mary turning the corkscrew in a bottle of Merlot, Meg curled up in the corner reading a magazine, and me piling another log on the fire and waiting for my share of the bottle. We haven’t been together like this for a long time. Our kids, all teenagers now, have driven down the slippery hill to get away from the old farts, and Brad, the lone in-law, is downstairs fixing the plumbing.

An argument erupts over Dad. I start it by telling everybody the story about Dad’s “book” one more time, and announcing, “I’m sure he wrote it.”

They’ve heard me talk about my researches on this topic for a few years now: how “P. J. O’Shaughnessy” never wrote anything else before or since and doesn’t seem to exist; how the book sounds a lot like Dad, full of jokes and golf and liquor; how the publisher went out of business and the ISBN info doesn’t match up in the Library of Congress; how the girlfriend has long since dropped out of sight and how old Paul, Dad’s buddy, can’t remember a thing about Dad writing a book.

I haul the paperback out again from my bookshelf. Trauma, it says in big letters on the cover. Published by Kensington; it was translated into German and published in Britain too. This copy of the paperback is pretty beaten up because I bought it used off the Advanced Book Exchange site on the Net. Look for yourself, there are still dozens for sale out there in every dusty second-hand book store in America.

There’s a guy on the cover with his head unwinding, and it’s a sci-fi thing about a man who wakes up one morning locked up at a mysterious sanitorium, having totally lost his memory. The fate of the world is at stake but the Irish nurse is buxom and willing and the evil administrator enjoys pouring out fine wine and pontificating with the hero. The tone is I’m-trying-to-sound-serious-but-God-this-is-a-lot-of-fun.


Pat says, “The Prisoner was Dad’s favorite TV series." He’d like to believe it now, that Dad wrote the book, but blind faith isn’t a good enough reason, considering it’s Dad we’re talking about.

Mary says as usual, “He couldn’t have written it. Remember the letter? He said he was writing a book and hadn’t even had the manuscript typed yet, but this book was already published when he sent the letter.”

“Maybe he was embarrassed to tell us about it. Maybe it was going to be a surprise. Maybe he was being coy,” I say. Mary thinks that’s funny.

Meg’s not buying it either. “He would have used his own name. Definitely.”

“They’re my initials,” I point out for the zillionth time.

“He would have used Pat’s initials. He liked to pile the honors on Pat. Remember how he awarded Pat a law degree before Pat even started law school?”

“Look,” I say, “he wanted to write. The book was in his desk, and so was part of a matching manuscript in Dad's handwriting.”

“Like you guys always said, he found the book and copied part of it. That’s what you and Pat—”

Mary interrupts in her reasonable tones, “He lied so much, we’ll just never know.” She and Meg are the reasonable ones in the family. Pat and I—the fuckups.

“I changed my mind,” I say. “New evidence has come to light.”

“Yeah, sure,” Meg and Mary say in unison.

“Listen.” I turn to the acknowledgments page. “See here? He acknowledges and thanks Dr. Fred Shima of the University of California. I found Shima,” I say, taking satisfaction from surprising them. “I called a few UC campuses and heard about a woman professor named Shima, so I called her and she turned out to be Dr. Fred Shima’s wife. He’s still alive, but he’s always been a psych professor at Cal State Fullerton, not at a UC campus. She gave me his number, and I talked to him last week. He remembered getting the call one day on his lunch hour. A man called and asked him a few questions about behavior modification for this book he was writing.”

“That was years and years ago. He remembered it was Dad who called him?” Pat’s amazed.

“Well, no. He couldn’t remember the name of the guy who called.” Groans all around.

“Then how do you know it was Dad who called?” Pat says.

“Induction,” I say, and start ticking my points off on my fingers and talking louder than they are, as is my right as eldest. “First of all, Cal State Fullerton is the closest university to Laguna Beach. So this P. J. O’Shaughnessy was Dad’s neighbor if he wasn’t Dad. Second, because he called Shima on a lunch hour, no appointment, no preliminaries. Spontaneous, like Dad. And he was jovial.”

“Jovial?” I scored with that one.

“Jovial. Shima remembers it was a jovial middle-aged man.”

“Lots of men are jovial,” Meg objects.

“But Dad was famous for his joviality.”

“But—”

I hold up my hand. “Third. The most telling point. Shima remembered the conversation for a very special reason.” Quiet spreads throughout the room and I savor it. “Because Dad sent him a courtesy copy when the book came out. Remember, in the acknowledgment he thanks Dr. Fred Shima, University of California.”

“So what?” Meg says. She’s holding the tattered paperback, riffling through the yellowing pages.

“Shima got the copy and he was so miffed he remembers it to this day.”

“Why?”

“Because, remember, Fred Shima taught at Cal State, not UC. Dad got his college wrong in the acknowledgment.”

Now we’re all grinning.

Pat says, “He didn’t think it mattered.”

“He’d forgotten where Shima taught, so he made up an approximation,” I say. “It’s Dad. It’s definitely Dad.”

Pat is nodding. Meg and Mary are still shaking their heads. Meg lays Trauma on the coffee table and says, “Nah.”

“Read it, Meg.”

“I did, last time this came up. I couldn’t tell.”

I know, I know, Dad left no clear indication, there’s no smoking gun in a text which I have deconstructed down to motes.

“Why do you care, anyway?” she goes on.

“I have to know if he managed to do it, managed to really write a book. Are we living out his dream, or following in his footsteps?” It’s easy for her to scoff, she’s a psychologist, one thing Dad never aspired to be. “I can do my own writing in peace if he managed to do his,” I say.

“I still don’t get it,” Mary says. "What's the big deal?"

“I don’t want to follow another one of his dreams! I want my own!”

Meg and Mary look at each other and raise their eyebrows in a way that reminds me so much of Mom.

“Give me that thing,” Pat says suddenly. “I’ll read it again. I’ll find a clue.” He gets down on his knees and thumbs through the pages and grimaces and acts like he’s tearing his hair out. He’s really distressed. “How could he do this to us? I can’t stand it,” he moans eventually.

“Me neither,” I say. I pour myself another glass of wine. The teenagers are home and come pounding up the stairs, snow-blown and bright, and I look at my Irish son and say to myself, someday I’m going to tell you the truth, kid, that you’re never going to know the truth. About anything. But telling stories keeps dreams alive.

'
'
'


Last edited by pjouissance, Apr/23/2010, 5:18 pm
Apr/22/2010, 7:08 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
Terreson Profile
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Auto, this is f***ing good writing. I am perfectly wrapped up in the family drama and in the way Sophocles could wrap up me in family drama.

Denouement comes here and it is well timed:

“I don’t want to follow another one of his dreams! I want my own!”

Punch line comes here:

“Me neither,” I say. I pour myself another glass of wine. The teenagers are home and come pounding up the stairs, snow-blown and bright, and I look at my Irish son and say to myself, someday I’m going to tell you the truth, kid, that you’re never going to know the truth. About anything. But telling stories keeps dreams alive.


The story sticks to my ribs. Damn good story. I think I just read a tale I couldn't have told so well.

Tere



Last edited by Terreson, Apr/22/2010, 9:08 pm
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pjouissance Profile
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Thanks, Tere. Glad you enjoyed!

I never wrote anything with a big mix of present and past tense, as I do here. I wonder if any of the tense changes are bothersome.

Appreciate your comments about the pacing,

Pam
Apr/22/2010, 11:00 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
Katlin Profile
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Auto,

This is wonderful! An absolute pleasure to read. I love the story, the voice and the way you go back and forth in time (was gonna say that even before I read your question about the tenses). I laughed out loud in several places:

"I changed my mind,” I say. “New evidence has come to light.”

and:

“Lots of men are jovial,” Meg objects.

“But Dad was famous for his joviality.”

Still laughing as I read them again.

You must have had this published somewhere, right? If not, get it out there. Your readers will love it. Writing students (and their teachers) will love it. I love it. It's a great read. Thank you for posting!

Last edited by Katlin, Apr/23/2010, 7:42 am
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Auto,

Last night after I posted, it occurred to me you might not want to publish this, but I wanted to explain why I suggested it. A friend, who is teaching two writing courses this semester, asked me to review a bunch of books he was considering for the course and give my opinion. The books ran the gamut from creative nonfiction to memoir to essays by writers on writing (and reading). I think your piece would fit well in that framework. For example, students could analyze it to determine why it works the way it does because, as Tere pointed out it's "!@#$ good writing."

I came to your piece last night after spending some time reading "theory" about avant-garde writing, and, as I said to Ms. P earlier about her prose piece, it was just the antidote I needed to clear my head before retiring.
Apr/23/2010, 8:56 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Hi, Katlin,

I appreciate your kind words and encouragement! No, I have only posted this on my blog and here, because I wanted to work on it and somehow when you post things you can see them more objectively. When you are writing about your own family it's very difficult to see the writing under the story. I have been quietly editing this since I posted it, so the workshop is doing its job!

I have always thought the last thing a writer should write about is writing. It's like a professor's novel, all about the hassles of getting tenure, or a poem about a poem. It means the person hasn't been out in the world enough. Blech! Still, here it is, haha, in hopes that there is more to it than a story about writing...also, it's true, and apart from a few primitive litcrit pieces I have never written anything in prose but fiction, so it is a personal challenge.

You seem to think it would benefit writing students...I think all writing courses in universities and institutions like the Iowa Writer's Workshop should be shut down immediately until the overwhelming dominance of academia over "outside" artists is destroyed. IMHO, the only way to learn to write is to read and to experience and observe life as fully as possible, and then practice writing obsessively. If you "study" it, you study a mass curriculum and it will take that much longer to find your own voice and re-find your original viewpoint.

OK, rant over, and I do feel sympathetic to artists who teach to eat. If I did publish this, I guess I'm saying, it would be in a book of my idiosyncratic essays, probably, and since such things are not going to be picked up by any major publishing house, would probably do so at my own expense.

I'm getting more and more interested right now in the revolution in private publishing. Just knowing that I can write and publish without the interference and censorship of profit-making or tenure-awarding oversight is incredibly liberating. In the past such efforts were doomed to obscurity, but I don't think that's true any more.

Anyway, I'm way off-topic, sorry. Look what we do here, person-to-person and away from institutionalization entirely. Very good way to improve raw material.

Thanks again for the reading, Katlin,

Auto

Last edited by pjouissance, Apr/23/2010, 12:24 pm
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hi Auto,

The father's death in the third paragraph literally took my breath away. I read the rest of the story without any 'reaction energy' in reserve. It's not that it's not well written--it's just for me, the bomb goes off and I can't hear much of anything that follows. Must be me, others were fine with it.

Just finished reading, "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. About the war in Viet Naam of which he is a veteran. He writes:

"Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a life-time ago, and yet remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That's what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story."

Guess I've been thinking about stories, what with you, Tere and MsP sharing such good ones
here. Thanks.

Chris
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Oh, I am back in my dad's rehab room and we're swapping stories. And he's admitting he fibs in his stories and I'm admitting I fib in mind. And I'm thinking about the folks we've recently lost in our family and how we've had to fill in the gaps in everything we wanted to know about them and didn't - so we investigated a little - and imagined a little more. I wonder what my children will wonder about and imagine about me when I go. (Good luck, boys, good luck.)

What a delightful and superbly crafted read.

MsP
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Glad it resonated, Ms. P!

Take care,

Auto
Apr/24/2010, 8:53 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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Hi Auto,

I am--um--conflicted about writing programs myself. Recently a friend told me about a "new" MFA program in creative writing she'd heard about. My response: Yeah, that's just what the world needs--another MFA writing program. After I went to grad school to get an MA in English, with a Creative Writing (poetry) concentration, I didn't write or read any poetry for almost 15 years and can't say I've re-found my original voice even now, so I am well-schooled in the potential dangers of such an endeavor. OTOH, I know several people who teach writing and have a friend whose daughter recently completed her MFA in writing and enjoyed it. In the end, I think it really depends on the program and the student and the fit between them.

I don't think your piece is about writing, at least not in the how-to sense of things. It's a good story, well-told, first and foremost, which is its real value. I hope you do publish this yourself someday in a book of essays. That doesn't mean somebody wouldn't want to use it in a writing class, with your permission. I would, and maybe precisely because it would pull an "outside" writer into the academy. Why not? emoticon
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P.S. Of course, the whole notion of finding one's voice is passé in some circles, the ones were noncreativity is touted and privileged over what they see as "official verse culture." Those circles are fast becoming the official verse culture in some places, so it will be interesting to see what comes of that transition should it take hold and spread throughout academia.
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pjouissance,also known as Auto ???,

What I like about this is how it doesn't take itself seriously; in fact, I like this that it doesn't take itself seriously as much as I like that Terreson's protagonist "does" take himself seriously. Both ways of writing hit a near perfect tone. They are just different approaches.

The tone is both good and readable. Not dense at all. A little lighter than I prefer, but to tell you the truth, it kept my attention, and it kept it all the way through. In today's world, especially in the internet world, this is a major achievement. For me the ending, however, was anticlimactic. It seemed to me that the ending actually came a little earlier. There were a couple of places a little earlier where the story could have conventiently ended because the arguments, the evidence was strong enough to show that the father did actually write the book. Maybe I'm thinking of the Fred Shima angle, and that it could be concluded around that argument.

"more kids popping rapidly up like targets in a carnival airgun game" -- It took me a while to find this phrase that I think perfectly illustrates the tone you stuck to in writing this. This refusal to write from an openly serious posture. Yet is "is" serious in its own way. Maybe "serious" is the wrong yardstick -- and I should merely talk about style or tone.

But there it is. It was well-structured and had a kind of frenetic tone that kept the reader moving forward, sometimes breathlessly -- sometimes moving forward with a sense that something else lay there to be discovered. Good stuff & thanks for posting. Zak

ps - I was interested in your comment about the tense changes. Two or three years ago I took a small writing course in Boston where you submit a sample of your writing to your peers. As you might guess, the experience and background of your peers varies greatly. One of the individuals in my particular group was a self-employed editor. She proceeded to hammer me on the tense changes. I then came to class with examples of modern writers right off the book shelves who employed tense changes. It didn't convince her, but the instructor agreed with me privately. So this does interest me. I think that the rules are a little more rigid for commercial books versus what is traditionally called literary books. But I would be interested in your take on this. Zak


 

Last edited by Zakzzz5, May/4/2010, 8:15 am
May/1/2010, 1:48 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Dad's Thriller


Hi, Katlin,

As soon as I start seeing some poems from academia that I want to memorize, I'll accept their current theories. Until then, they seem to be as lost as all of us at having lost rhyme and meter. My latest personal solution is to bring in visual art to replace the lost music.

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May/11/2010, 4:35 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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Hi, Zak, Thanks for reading and commenting! Yep, it's me...

I know what you mean about tenses. I think you just have to print the thing out and read it, and see if the tenses change naturally in your mind just as they do on paper. Or read the writing aloud. But I don't think formal rules apply in a lot of fast or casual writing, and I also find that good people may differe about when to change or not change tenses. It's a difficult issue...

Take care,

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May/11/2010, 4:38 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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My latest personal solution is to bring in visual art to replace the lost music.

Hi again, Auto,

I think in some of your visual poems you retain a musical element, i.e., there are musical phrases/chords that echo in and out, which gives the poems a double effect. Not saying you should do that (or shouldn't!). Just an observation, FWIW.
May/18/2010, 6:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 


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