Saturday, May 31, 2014

Doggy Dog World*

* As an English teacher, I’ve always collected errors in diction, words and phrases that people, especially my students, mis-hear, like “windshield factor” and “the next store neighbors.” Many years ago, one of my students wrote an essay in which she described the world as being harsh and cruel, “a doggy dog world.” I’ve since come to think she may have been more astute and accurate than those who describe it in the usual way.

Those of you who are reading my memories here may be interested in examining my blog, called Doggy Dog World, in which I write movie and book reviews or comment on news of the day, If so, click here: Doggy Dog World.


It seems that writing one’s memoirs is the hottest trend in publishing these days. But I had planned to do exactly that for the past ten years and haven’t yet gotten around to beginning. Does that make me a trendsetter, a trend follower, or a trend-procrastinator? Whatever. At long last at least I’m working on a start.

The first step of a journey is usually the hardest. Much easier to sit back and plan and plan, consider the difficulties, the inconveniences, the possible dangers, the expense. Then say, “Nah, I guess I’ll just stay here.” But if we actually do take that first step, that first foot forward, the second and third become much easier. And five thousand steps later we’re into the swing of it. Then, fifty thousand steps into the journey, we finally see the destination and we hurry down the road to a conclusion. My analogy is transparent but true. Writing anything like a novel or an autobiography may seem impossibly long at first, but the farther into the journey, the easier it becomes. I’ve written five novels so far, and at the beginning, each one seemed too long for me ever to find the ending. But I did, all five times. And I’ll do the same with this, the account of my journey through the first seventy-five years of my life.

One of my concerns, I guess the same concern anyone has who attempts to trace his life as honestly and as accurately as possible, is that I may not remember events as they actually happened, that I may see some things more favorably than they actually were, may even forget whole segments either because they weren’t important enough to remember or because they were too grim or hateful to remember. Or too unflattering. Lawrence Block, in his novel When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, said, “When you drove cross-country you didn’t remember every billboard, every mile of highway. Why bother recalling every detail of your life?” Therefore, my reader should be aware that not all of what I have to say about my life will be absolutely correct or accurate. I will have filled in some spaces with semi-fictional putty, a few fake billboards, some artificial trees and bushes, a few curves and avenues that didn’t really exist, but the overall pattern will be true. Jeffrey Deaver in his novel The Vanished Man puts a slightly different spin on it. Kara, one of the characters says to Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic forensics expert, “Isn’t most of our lives an illusion?” He asks her how and she continues, “Well, everything in the past is memory, right? . . . And everything in the future is imagination. Those’re both illusions—memories are unreliable and we just speculate about the future. The only thing that’s completely real is this one instant of the present—and that’s constantly changing from imagination to a memory. So, see? Most of our life’s illusory.” So, please, bear with me in my prestidigitation involving the events of my life.

Before I begin, though, I should do a brutally honest appraisal of my personality, establish before the fact what kind of person I think I am so that I don’t get too involved in lying to myself and my readers about the events of my life. I’m a bright and clever person, always more of an idea man than a doer. I always wanted to be recognized for my creativity. I spent my life writing songs no one but me would ever hear. I’ve written novels, short stories, poems, articles, essays—all probably fated to die somewhere in the caverns of my computer. Some would say I was a dilettante, dabbling in the arts. But I wasn’t just dabbling. Success in any artistic endeavor requires two things: ability and determination. I always believed I had the ability; I just didn’t have enough determination to stay with it long enough to find success. I’m obsessive about the things I enjoy, I ignore the things I don’t enjoy. I’m an oversensitive romantic, always looking for the rainbow or the perfect love of my life. I’m lazy; I’m quick-tempered; I’m thoughtful and thoughtless. I’m honest with a thin streak of larceny. I’m a mechanical idiot. There. That’s as accurate as I can make it.

So, who is my audience? Who even wants to read a detailed account of my life? I hope my children do, or their children. If they don’t, however, then I’ll just have to write it for myself—use it to put into perspective what has happened to me in seventy-five years, what I’ve let happen to me, what others have done to me, what I’ve done to myself, what I’ve gained, what I’ve lost.

I hope I find the trip rewarding. I hope I have more than one reader.

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