Thursday, June 26, 2014

Breakfast Stories

Most of the time this is about photography but sometimes I rant and sometimes I ramble. This is a ramble.

I need a computer that I can carry in my pocket. I always read when I go out to eat and almost always read something that makes me want to rush home and put thoughts down on paper. Such was this morning…

Reading Brooks Jensen’s Letting Go of the Camera where he is talking about the exoteric and the esoteric in photography and using religious references as illustration. He mentioned some quotes from Edward Weston, Minor White and Mark Twain. I was familiar with the Weston and White quotes but it was Twain that made me want to write stuff down.

Probably about 2004 I made a much valued cyberfriend as a result of a social faux pas—not unusual for me—not the making a cyberfriend part, but the social faux pas part. I learned that Robbie was teaching creative writing at Tarrant County College and I was, at that time, writing a little fiction. She offered to critique some of my work. Well, I am NOT a writer so I really don’t recall that I ever sent her anything, too embarrasshing, but we did often discuss writing.

I mentioned that I do not normally care for ‘stream of consciousness’ poetry but that I seem to use stream of consciousness when writing fiction. This was brought to my attention in 2002 when I attended my first class reunion for the BHS Class of 1957.

I had to a great extent put Burkburnett out of mind when Dad died in 1985. Didn’t have much reason to go back and actually questioned my sanity in signing up for the reunion. The event triggered a lot of memories of my youth there. Driving back to Houston, I began to wonder what I as a 63 year old would have offered as advice to me as a very confused teenager of say 16. When I returned home I wrote a short story that I titled The Song and the Silence in the Heart, taken from Longfellow’s poem My Lost Youth.

I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
Across the school-boy's brain;
The song and the silence in the heart,
That in part are prophecies, and in part
Are longings wild and vain.

When I started I knew only one thing that I wanted to write. The older and wiser (?) me would meet the very confused me in the middle of the football field in the stadium behind the old high school building for a conversation. I would answer questions and impart wisdoms to solve the dilemma known as being a teenager. Well, that was the scene that started the story but the wisdom part turned out not to be so easy. The story concluded after some ninety-nine single spaced pages and I am not sure that either came out wiser but it was a very interesting journey. (Yes, Alcy, I just go on and on!)

The older me turned out to a Jewish man that had converted to Catholicism, neither of which do I know the least thing about. The younger me was much better looking, more popular and a whole lot smarter than I ever was. There is hardly anything in the story that is based on more than a smidgen of fact. The closest I came was that one of the characters was suicidal. He, like me, being a Baptist, couldn’t just off himself so he decided that if he drove recklessly and had an ‘accident’ then maybe he would have a plausible excuse when he met the good St Peter. Unlike me, the character in the story carried the supposition to its conclusion. I still don’t know whether it would have worked or not.

Instead of writing about what I thought I was going to write about I ended up examining a hindsight version of society at that time, mid nineteen-fifties, along with the difficulties of being a teenager from the viewpoint of the much more evolved society of 2002.

I told Robbie that I enjoyed just seeing where the story was going because it went places I never intended to go or had ever gone. In the end I realized that I was each and every character in the story, which I found very interesting. As a character in the story I could experience things I had never experienced. Yet I knew that I was the character.

I used the term ‘stream of consciousness’ for a lack of knowledge of any other term to describe what I experienced during the writing. Robbie informed me that is not the way to write and I feel certain she is correct.

Back to Brooks Jensen. I do not know that what Brooks wrote is a quotation from Twain or just a generalized comment about writing taken from something Twain had said.

“Every writer knows there is a point at which the characters take over the plot and the task of writing changes from one of creation to one of observation.”

That is what I experienced.

Regretfully, The Song and the Silence has long since been lost. It may be on a drive I can no longer access but I doubt that I will ever see it again.  I have tried writing fiction a couple of times since but those half dozen or so short stories I wrote about that time seems to be all the writing I had in me—it just doesn’t come back. Besides it interferes with my photography.

Actually to make this about photography it would be just as applicable to paraphrase that statement…

“Every photographer knows there is a point at which the photograph takes over and the task of photographing changes from one of creation to one of observation.”

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