A brief scene, just shy of a thousand words, is nestled in the middle of Crack the Spine’s 47th issue. Please do have a read… and enjoy the other remarkable prose and poetry throughout the issue.
Ah. Story Rejection. An old friend who darkens my doorstep occasionally, and whose arrival compels consolatory glasses of whisky.
“I am interested in other things. I have a good life but I must write because if I do not write a certain amount I do not enjoy the rest of my life.”
“And what do you want?”
“To write as well as I can and learn as I go along. At the same time I have my life which I enjoy and which is a damned good life.”
- Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa
I am now forty-five, a weathered but unsure halfway point. There remains a world I haven’t touched, and things not yet seen, and I agonize over what I’ve missed and slept through. I’ve done a few things, so few, and it will never be enough.
- I have sat in a jacuzzi with raindrops falling, listening to distant sirens and the roars of Bourbon Street.
- I have watched the sun set over the Pacific, and the sun’s first rays over Texan plains.
- I have eaten monkfish liver, rattlesnake, and alligator.
- I have dug a trench.
- I have written detailed reviews for two hundred and seventy-five restaurants.
- I have ridden an elephant.
- I have driven home in tears, having left a cat behind in death.
- I have performed Shakespeare on the Ahmanson stage.
- I have worked on plumbing in a mortuary, with a cadaver in repose behind me.
- I have obtained a degree.
- I have smoked a cigar on a treehouse balcony in Jamaica, listening to raindrops mutter on tree leaves.
- I have fed apples to an Indian rhinoceros.
- I have written a novel and a novelette.
- I have gripped my woman’s hands while she was in the throes of labor.
- I have explored an abandoned cemetery.
- I have watched a heartfelt performance of Madonna’s “Rain” at a drag cabaret.
- I have had second-degree sunburns on my torso.
- I have walked down the aisle of five weddings that were not my own.
- I have stayed awake for four and a half days.
- I have run an entire pizza kitchen by myself.
- I have listened to a bugler play “Taps” for my father.
- I have driven a truck that reached 302,000 miles.
- I have operated a spotlight for bands playing in Sunset Boulevard clubs.
- I have lived through an earthquake which destroyed our neighborhood.
- I have danced with strangers in darkened clubs.
- I have ridden in a helicopter.
- I have sat in a chair and had needles stab color into my skin.
- I have fought and caught a thirty-pound tuna.
- I have once worked every day for thirty-three days.
- I have watched a Navaho dance with redstone monuments behind her, and felt bitterness.
- I have ridden a bicycle over the Golden Gate bridge.
- I have waited in a recovery room for hours while the woman I love lay in pain.
- I have sung songs into a microphone, in front of people.
- I have reclined on a blanket in a grassy cemetery and watched a movie projected onto a mausoleum.
- I have been stung by a wasp and a bumblebee.
- I have swum under the ocean’s surface with fishes of yellow and blue, and heard the song of whales in the distance.
There is so much yet to do. I need Bianca to be with me for everything remaining.
“Make your novel readable. Make it easy to read, pleasant to read. This doesn’t mean flowery passages, ambitious flights of pyrotechnic verbiage; it means strong, simple, natural sentences.”
Of course, this was back right during the modernist reactions to all those pastoral, league-long novels of the late 1800s… and it’s still got merit. I don’t, however, think it should be as tightly latched onto as it is. It’s a mindset that’s as hard to shake as the “attention-grabbing first sentence.”
Tell your story, well. If there is room for words woven together brilliantly, I still admire that. I don’t think I could read, say, all Hemingway, all the time. Hemingway to me is a refreshing, bracing shot, something to return to.