Thursday, January 01, 2009
WRITER’S LIFEGUARD - another instalment from Jules Older
The Steinbeck story unfolds...
From travel writer Christine Loomis in Colorado:
I'm with Larry on Of Mice and Men. That story haunted me in high school, the same way To Kill a Mockingbird had in middle school. Reading it made me realize at 16 that life isn't fair. Life will never be fair. Dreams can only take you so far. We all need a protector.
But if asked at age 21 the name of my favorite American author, the answer would have been Faulkner. Light in August, Chapter 6, opening paragraph. This was for me a blinding blaze of literary light putting forever to rest the school teacher notions that writing must be linear, traditionally correct, and that every word in the world already exists. Cinderstrewnpacked. What a word. "Knows remembers believes a corridor in a big long garbled cold echoing building of dark red brick sootbleakened by more chimneys than its own, set in a grassless cinderstrewnpacked compound surrounded by smoking factory purlieus and enclosed by a ten foot steel-and-wire fence like a penitentiary or a zoo, where in random erratic surges, with sparrowlike childtrebling, orphans in identical and uniform blue denim in and out of remembering but in knowing constant as the bleak walls, the bleak windows where in rain soot from the yearly adjacenting chimneys streaked like blacktears.”
From Hawaii-based travel writer Kim Steutermann Rogers:
Ah, Jules, we mustn't overlook The Man's nonfiction. We're travel writers here, yes? (Well, a few of us, perhaps.) Travels with Charley inspires me.
In it, Steinbeck achieves something that another immortal, Paul Theroux, wrote that goes, "The job of the travel writer is to go far and wide, make voluminous notes, and tell the truth.
There is immense drudgery in the job. But the book ought to live, and if it is truthful, it ought to be prescient without making predictions." For me, Travels with Charley is prescient.By the way, love the Moira story.[Kim wasn't the only one who loved the Moira story.]
And from Vermont newspaper editor and journalist, J.B. McKinley:
Hi, Jules – personally Grapes of Wrath is my favorite Steinbeck, followed not by another novel but by Travels with Charley, a book I have semi-consciously modeled parts of my life upon. Steinbeck was worried at that writing that Americans had lost their penchant for loudly voicing their true opinions. I agreed in the ‘60s and agree now. Political correctness of the media and the courts in speech and writing is the most insidious evil America faces. That said, Faulkner is my favorite writer.OK, I'm pretty sure I'm not up for Faulkner just now, but I've just ordered Travels with Charley from my local library.
And now, that rejection slip. It’s translated from a Chinese economic journal, and it goes like this:
'We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.'
Read well, write well, travel well, dear friends and colleagues.