A Thesis of Sorts.
In the beginning he didn’t know where to begin, but somehow he knew it was going to be hard work. So, you could say he began reluctantly; that he was ever a reluctant prodigal in returning towards himself.
The object, now that he had portable keyboard – laptop – would be to gather and compile and edit all of his earlier works that were worth compiling and editing. In so doing, he hoped to create a permanent record, a record of my life as it was lived, at the tail end of the 20th century and then on into the beginning of the 21st century. He hoped many things, but above all this, he was he hoped that somehow time might bear a witness to all this time and trouble of life study. An American life, and a somewhat provincial one at that was what he was after here, in this enterprise.
What would his record portend? Digging through the musty basements of his memory, and literally through old boxes of timeworn and wilted notebooks, he found at times was a fairly directly personal journal. At other times, in other journals, he found outright fictions. Fictionalizing incidents, bored with the actual way things were, he’d begun playing with ideas of fiction and unreality; all with some eye on some future idea of “someday making a story out of this”, or, thinking, “this, this is worth remembering”, and so writing it down. That is, he began lying. But the lies were just as interesting, and often as truthful, as the straight no nonsense account.
His method, during original composition, as a rule, was to sit down in a cafe and jot down ideas and remembrances, impressions and rememberings. He chugged coffee and more often than not thought about women. Actually, most of the time he was thinking about women and the writing was just a way to distract himself from those thoughts. It was all just sublimination, at the core, a transmutation of one energy into another. Usually, and this is the truly sad and vagabond truth of this whole “thesis”; his number one preoccupation was normally just the women. That Same Old Story: the seeking of love, the absence of love, and wailing about an abject state of needing and wanting romantic love. He simply wrote as a means to pass the time waiting for the Big Love that was always over the horizon. That isn’t what this journal is really about, but remember what I mentioned about the lying, and keep that in mind as you forge ahead.
He could easily have done this before, this enterprise of pen and paper and keyboard and mind. In deed, at different junctures in his life he indeed attempted this very same documentation process. Most recently, when his grandmother passed in 2004(?) he was struck by a momentous urgency; a shocking urgency of mortality and loss, and for about a week, he fomented a new documentation of his journals, but, predictably soon, this urgency passed, and then he was back to where he had always been before: a rampant composer of first-draft diary and journaling who never took the time to clean up, edit, and order his “first thoughts” into a coherent work of fiction, non-fiction memoir, poetry, observation and otherwise someone else might interest in reading. Ambition fades as quickly and as quietly as desire, if not more permanently and with less of a rush and clamor.
So, where to begin, then? he could, I thought, go back to the very birth of his private writerly life and transcribe by very first (at least extant!) “diary”…written there and then in his smoky teenage room in a vinyl backed “Journal-A-Day” timekeeper he’d gotten from my mother, who herself was much given to drinking wine late of a evening and scribbling her thoughts in a notebook. She more often than not burnt these by the light of gas stove in the kitchen, but the practice, if not the result, was there in embryo . When did he start? He was 16. He mainly wrote about all the girls he had crushes on at his school, wrote about them, about his first attempts at drinking and smoking pot, wrote about becoming famous one day and meeting & exceeding all the harsh demands of his dreams. This was the overbearing father of the son the rest of his life became.
He did that sort of dreaming for several years, and then tapered off; his early dreams of being a new F. Scott Fitzgerald cum Thomas Wolfe (the first one) taking a back seat towards the end of his senior year in high school with the epiphany of growing to be an adult, and leaving home. The night on the hilltop watching the cars on Beech-Daly, smoking, weeping occasionally (fitfully and sentimental, really, more than out of any sense of real sadness); leaving it all behind, for university, and drugs and smoke and all the rest. It all went quite well in the final analysis, but this was before all that.
At University, he found his writerly instincts fully-in-bloom in the academic environment, “in bloom”, a song tile by a band Nirvana popular all through those years. In Bloom, and moreover, he found the stimulating presence of so many young women to be so encompassing he lost some sense of my journaling and it did not return again until an awful event brought me back to writing for good. It was with a sense of determination and out of profound need for therapy/healing that he took up the pen (and the Smith-Corona Type H Word Processor) after his mother died after her long long bout with cancer in October 1992. So it was, and of this period of collegiate essays, stories, and musings, there is already a pretty good compilation. When he graduated, he made a copied collection of many of the edited and re-worked items he’ d done all through his years at State and gave it to a high school pal who was graduating as well. He kept copies, though not the collection, of all these works and it is filed away somewhere, messily, no doubt, with all his other papers and errata.
So, thereafter, finishing school and having epiphanies of a very profound sort which more or less lead to his taking up yoga, Eastern religion, long walks, and moving to Florida, he resolved to commit himsel;f utterly to the writing of a novel, to commit himself to following to the conclusion this early (winter?) dream of being a serious writer; and, taking a cheap room offered by a friend in Naples, Florida, and taking a low-paying job as a bookstore clerk at a chain bookstore at a mall, he resolved to begin and finish his preliminary fiction. Establishing a good routine and working hard on it, after a year and half living in Florida, he returned home with a scattered collection of about 100-150 typewritten pages that more or less could be called (if one were being very generous), a “very rough draft” of a 1st novel. It was to be called Lawn Jockey, and more or less dealt with a fictionalized milieu reminiscent of his hometown, and told, in an odd stream-of-consciousness first person style, the events of one summer’s nervous breakdown of an underachieving protagonist who was more or less him if he’d never left his hometown, had no family, and was prone to suicidal ideation over the prospects of a shitty job and a shitty romantic situation. The first chapter was probably brilliant, but the story goes downhill fast from there. The character hung out with a developmentally-disabled man based on “Larry”, a disabled man who lived with a neighborhood friend growing up; otherwise, our hero mowed lawns for an overbearing boss, and thought about killing himself a lot. At the end of the novel he dosed himself with gasoline directly from a pump and set himself afire like a Buddhist monk. He doesn’t die, however, the ironic kicker at the end is he wakes up burned horribly in a hospital and gains a new appreciation for life and beauty. The novel is not good; in the end it amounted to a conglomeration of disjointed depressing adolescent musings in apocalyptic guise, but there’s some decent passages in a faux Cormac McCarthyesque style which hold some good writing, and some of the descriptions of suburban Detroit probably hold some value, but the book was probably best left unfinished, though he certainly learned from the experience. Interestingly, when our Reluctant Prodigal said farewell to Florida, the first job he took upon returning to Michigan was working with developmentally-disabled and mentally ill people; training them for jobs cleaning office buildings and other places. He ended up working in the field for over ten years, and today may or may not still employed doing similar work. The true fallout and legacy of this first novel, Lawn Jockey, it seems to be that it gave him a good idea for an appropriate dayjob.
I had a few different ways set before me of transcribing this man’s journal works from the years that roughly equaled the first half of his life… and have found myself unable to successful settle on any one or few of them. Like Neal Cassidy’s “The First Third” only longer, less colorful, and more baleful, the first 35 -40 years of this man’s life seems like one big analogy, and a quick one at that. Any system for putting them together in a coherent long work has seemed to make them only more obstuse; as to collect and compile these short works from the years of before and in some way group them by theme was becoming like a latter-day plumbing & repair of same deep down in the pressure of the depths for remnants of some lost culture from deep under the sea.
And that’s not even counting the new entries that are still being produced, of present-day events, in different tenses, styles, and themes.
I do no compliment in the description of these works’ diversity, for even messes and confusions are diverse, and prolific; profundity is no brother to abundance.
Firstly, I”ve been dealing with different perspectives and more often that not, completely different tenses, and found these works to be intolerable messes, sentimental juvenilia from a shattered late-night heart string that has smoked a cigarette or few one too many. As I began transcribing the Reluctant Prodigal’s “writing years”, I found his purplish writing almost always from a 1st person perspective, but later switched to using a 3rd person perspective in later works. I found these works held together more thematically if they could be imagined as the true work of one individual; his story, his life as it proceeded down the roads and minutes of days, but that perspective — itself a stretch and bit of a kindness — only worked if I held to that third-person line like a soldier of the Great War held to his trench, his mess, and his comrades. Hence, tally-ho on the Third Person Crusade!
Other times, this author was completely unable to restrict his style to any one form, and in between paragraphs or clots of words jumped from one form (prose) to another (poetry) to still another yet again (lyric) before coming to rest yet again the earthy arms of crappy purplish prose. Sometimes he got lazy and made lists. Other times, he got bored with an idea and concluded some plot point quickly, or trailed off, or acted like he’d continue some idea the next day and leaving it hanging at Part 2, but of course he never came back to pick up the idea. He left his themes by the back door, had his fill of coffee or tea at the cafe, packed up his shit, looked around one last time at the pretty girls or lack thereof, and left, with nothing more to show for it than some sloppy handwriting in a cheap notebook. These accounts are straight transcriptions, in the third person, of those cheap notebooks, that crappy purplish writing, more or less.
Actually, that’s what most of this enterprise was: “nothing more to show for it”. When night pitchy fears of death gripped him, or he began to think he’d die and have nothing to show for his time on earth, he’d gestate some profane or mundance idea deep in his reptile brain, and later, when the clamor of the workday was done, he’d transcribe some vestige of that idea in his journals. THOSE ideas are here, now presented to you, the reader, for your edification.
Ah, those times , those times! He felt he needed to get that one thought out, complete that one piece of mental furniture, needed to make the completion and the ordering of this reality like some spare room for some absent boarder, and then that boarder never showed. He tried capturing in all these words and idioms for this lost vacant vagrant, those personal confidante permanently away on business, all this posturing and being and nonesuch. This was the one story he’d always been telling and always satisfied with in the telling : his life. To be “central” to his own life was always the course and object of his labors and his central theme and idea. The thesis of his life study was the study itself.
So, to conclude “on methodology” and the blood of kings; In the originals, he had no form, at least distinct from just titling a piecce based on some way he was feeling, on some emotion or event that drove the whole thing; or at least drove him to write the piece in the first instance. The usual motivation was some emotional state he found himself in, usually a state related to some loneliness, loss, or a longing; that, or, in the case of adolescent musing, mercifully edited out for this Edition, a feeling of underachieving ennui. Sometimes he seems simply trying to be funny, or stall some mnemonic chant in his head by repeating the bizarre, the repetitive, or the simply unexplainable gibberish that wouldn’t stop turning around in his brain. The favorite of his Forms was probably the poetic; those instances when he tried to capture some thought, some emotion, some “state” with some small collection or phrasing of words. But, as a favorite, it was also least visited; like the visit of a mysterious and foreign favorite uncle or special event, in it’s rarity was it’s value. At his most descriptive he was at his most artful, but this state was probably approached the least, and most often in the summer, when was able to sit outside and write, or on deep winter nights, or when he was feeling some emotional leftover from a bad love affair, or no love affair, or some hoped-for love affair.
These are stolen half-poems, the best and most promising and most superior in their completeness and satisfaction, all original or attributed appropriately, past and present, and of the Future. In bloom, but just for awhile. The First Half, then, 18-40.
BONUS CONTENT: Being and Nothingness in the Third Person.
A theory of self delineated in notebooks defining what would be the Self, transcribed here for critique. Our finest researchers seem to have determined, in theory, unproven, that he wanted to take himself and write everything he felt into those golden books and then one day when he died (whether he knew it or not, someone could say, “Parts of him can be found here, in these books, go, go have look on page #23, that was a good day, so we know at least, he had a few.”
But there would be stories too, and tales of life in a certain era; for instance he wrote quite clearly the day of and after of 9/11, though, truth be told, he had less interest in that whole event after some time than he did in something of my own, which was he was trying to quit smoking, beginning this on September 5th, 2001, and more or less succeeding by the following summer. It was always like that in these journals: the historic overshadowed by the personal. Navelgazing but then again he had no censor; the spirit of the books would not have been the same if he did have one. It was truly self, these compositions, and for this reason, he never let others read them. He kept the books in lined college-ruled notebooks, and when he finished one of these, he put it away for awhile in a stack of identical or nearly identical notebooks. Actually, he seemed to be pretty cheap when it came to purchasing notebooks and invariably chose the cheapest college-ruled ones. Some seem to have durable covers, and, at times, a pocket, a divider, or some other convenient feature which appealed to him; others seem like cheap whatnot he grabbed from wherever. He was not constant on size, shape, or style of notebook, either, and depending on the season, sometimes chose a ‘pocket-notebook”, or smaller steno-sized pad, for his jottings. He doodled in the margins, often, in these books, and sometimes came up with doodles the later transcribers liked. Other times he drew alot of dicks, or dirty drawings. It seems like everything we found was in 1st draft. There were no re-writes. It seemes as if he never looked at his writings again after composition. Often times it seems probable he had a few drinks before he wrote this shit. It seems as if he wrote this stuff on the fly, never looked at it again, and soon filed the result away sloppily in piles and in boxes which were later found by researchers in his abode after he vacated.
There is errata, of course, and lots of it, buried with the notebooks, in those piles and boxes…lost half slips of paper, the backs of napkins, folded up cards and pieces of paper-trash rubbish, items such as this where he scribbled notes as well, and some of these have been saved. Jammed down in boxes, mainly, or stuffed in the backs of other notebooks, these scraps exist without dates; without origin like music piped in from the speakers set at the bottom of a pool. Overheard and windblown, they might be the orphans of the piece, or the bastards come to claim an inheritance. We just don’t know yet.
Submitted: Chief MGMT and Archivist, SCP July 30, 2010.