More notes from the brain:

I have been without the internet for around 10 days or so and I have been writing in my notebook more and more lately. Because of Stine’s recommendations I am partial to the Moleskine notebooks–I like their large notebooks and though I once laughed at Hugo and his very specific–almost eccentric listing and discussing of his writing instruments–I do now understand. I mean I must write with the uniball vision elite 5.0 pen from Wal-Mart–I have only been able to find them at Wal-Mart. I like the flat large notebooks and the soft shell and the large tan pages. I used to like the yellow legal pads and I liked to fill them with freewriting and notes but I mostly only hand write in the Moleskin books–I bought a pack of three one day and filled up one with the Huerfano project and now I am beginning a second with the Cornbread project. I like the notebooks as they make me feel like I am accomplishing quite a bit even though I might only be getting down one or two pages at a time–they make me feel as if I am plotting out actions and events rather than a final project which I will leave for the laptop. I don’t draft on the laptop as much as I used to–well I do draft on it I guess it is all a matter of feel. I sat in the backyard of the Abuelitos a couple of summers ago and drafted Huerfanos and now I can sit and draft Cornbread.

For those of you following along I completed another two chapters here over the break–I finished up the chapter on Rosalie–Rudy’s wife–and I am beginning the chapter on Cynthia Otero. The research of Otero’s death is so cold and flat–she was shot through Baca’s front door and died in the hospital a few days later–the articles read the shooting that led to the death as if they might not be directly related. Anyway I have a few pages of notes on that that will soon be chapter 18 and 19.

I also spent some time driving around the east side here looking for the tamale lady– I did thislast year in a blizzard for the ABuelito and this year I did it for my sister. The tamale lady lives on the east side and I spent more time driving around to get a sense of Baca’s old haunts. I wanted to go to the church where he was accused of beating up on his girlfriend and her niece but didn;t have the time. Hopefully this wil give me the burst of energy and dare I say inspiration I need to finish up these crucial passages now that I think I know what is going to happen.

For those of you who care–Rudy is with Bea and Baca finds out about it from Manito or Romes–I haven’t decided that just yet. Oh and Romes returns to give Manito a hard time about wanting to go to college and for not hitting on Bea.

More notes from the brain and chapters to come…

The title of this weblog post is from some lines of dialogue from one of my favorite uncollected J.D. Salinger stories–“The Inverted Forest“. (I found it pretty quickly online and I wonder how old J.D. thinks about it.) In this story our main character, Corinne, is left by a childhood love. The childhood love, Raymond Ford, tells her these lines after leaving her for a younger and more abusive woman that is drawn similarly to his mother. Ford is a poet and the lines, in my reading, mean Ford cannot write without the similar surroundings of the life he grew up with. And Corinne was raised affluent and drawn as having so much provided for her and Ford doesn’t have much except for an abusive mother and perhaps the origin of his creativity.

I think of this story as I head back to Colorado possibly within the next few days. And I can say with some irony and half-heartendness after the drama and hurt of the last six months–I’m back with the brain.

Can’t hide in books and academics as I have for the past 16 to 17 weeks. And I talked about it a bit this term in my poetry class after we read sections of T.S. Elliot’s The Wasteland. I don’t know if the poem and the story are meant to speak to one another but they do. I do know Salinger wrote poetry and I imagine so much of his poetry under his bed. Anyway, the chapter associated with the poem is on allusion as figurative language and the Elliot poem has more than 400 allusions to other works–all other works and I kid you not–in the literary canon, western and non-western. In the Wasteland, Elliot describes the emptiness after loss of WW I and how that perhaps allows him and drives him to write oddly enough–honeslty I am not quite sure what Elliot is saying–but I think that is what Salinger is trying to say. That which harms us and hurts us perhaps makes us stronger and fuels are creative literacies–like Ford and his writing on a card table in his new home at the end of the story. This is a pretty thin analysis on my part but that is pretty much what I think Salinger is saying in response to the Wasteland.

OK. So what does that have to do with Pueblo? Well, my family and so much of who I am is in Pueblo. Was in Pueblo. Since the Abuelita died I haven’t been all that well. I have been teaching and I have been writing. Perhaps I have been working too hard in order not to think about things. But I write about Lolo and the Abuelitos and my growing up and so I feel that all that fuels my writing and my creative sensibilities. I mean I approach writing of fiction and non-fiction all through Pueblo and my growing up there. Spruce Street and the southside I grew up on. And soon I will be back and be able to see the family and work in the old/new library on some research and I have to say I am dreading it and also looking forward to it. The paradox to add to another long list of paradoxes I deal with in my life and work.

Over the last three or four days, D and I have been going over the Cornbread Baca manuscript. She reads it to me over google video chat and I listen and then I make notes on the manuscript–reading it all out loud is so helpful for me. She has been so giving with her time–thank you, D. Some notes for revision and re-envision coming from those readings:

We talked about comma usage problems of sentences–of course. Grammar and syntax are not my language or so I have always thought. This leads to quite a few useless repetitions in terms of words and also line by line information that repeats. First draft types of problems. Just as in the thesis, I can’t keep track of ages and time issues in early drafts and even later drafts. Character’s ages and dates. Arghh! I need to know that enemy and defeat but perhaps not until the bones are constructed. I am still drafting–that’s my only defense.

She also likes the scope of the story–the humor and the pathos of the situation. She likes the dialogue–she says it is authentic. Especially Lolo’s. And I do want more flash forward to Lolo’s Denver apartment.

She likes the character of Bea but also wants more clarity of chronology, since there are so many characters and so many stories going on–chronology of one central character would help, at least one focusing thread. This will help to give more of a central idea like Rudy’s murder but we need a bit more than that. Perhaps not as chronological as it needs to be right now. Maybe more like Caramelo. Perhaps follow Manito from his drop off at the Abuelitos’ home and then on to college and also following Bea to Colorado State with Manito–maybe the crisis/resolution will be the two getting out of the neighborhood and getting out to college–like the end of This Boy’s Life. I always say I want time to be more fluid like William Maxwell but I see her point and I need to draft a timeline if not for anything but my notes–maybe some sort of rudimentary family tree and such. D made me do this for the Huerfanos project and I have to say the homework step that I thought would be tedious was very helpful. Perhaps I can draft that with D’s help or I can do it while in Colorado.

She also added that the rabbit story or tentative Ch 14 doesn’t seem to fit and I need to work on the placement–perhaps placing it earlier in terms of tension and resolution to Lolo’s involvement with manito as I seem to be caught up with Bea and then we flash forward and away from the Bea story arc. I need to work on that–perhaps placement and new approach. Note: I also want to add more to the back story of the Abuelito and the child he fathered or was alleged to have fathered.

Controlling of time and deciding on chronology seems to be the biggest flaw in her reading and I agree. And I have time to re-think those problems as well as some time in Colorado to perhaps research Cornbread a bit more since the Chieftain website is not as helpful as it used to be.

D and I went out to the university and braved the well dressed yuppies and the cold to watch Ira Glass and his one-man show. Peg and John Knoepfle were also there. The show is called Ira Glass–Broadcast Stories and Other Stories. We are both huge fans of This American Life from way back and pretty much all around NPR dorks as well. Kim believes NPR makes you smarter and Ira Glass agreed. He explained how he believed NPR makes you a better person and how he believed that is what the intimacy of radio should do. He also said how he wanted to break that open and create and expand into more of entertainment with radio–to focus what was humorous as opposed to just cold fact or meant to scare or intimidate or shock. He said that was the spark of his first few segments on NPR and then his own show out of Chicago. He also joked he wanted to do the whole live show last night in the dark with only his voice and audio clips and music to capture the intimacy of the voice over the radio as in his show.

And I thought the show would be like another episode of This American Life so I was surprised how much he spoke of narrativity and creating engaging stories to tap emotional empathy. I was surprised how he started the clips himself and added the music with a flair and timing of a maestro conducting. He Also spoke of how he developed his style of anecdote and then analysis or reflection that the show is known for–the idea of creating a suspenseful story to hook the listener. He argued it was working in his show because he gave a large number in terms of research to prove that people who tune in stay tuned in–I think he said average listening time was 44 minutes. He related how he developed this style working for NPR in Washington DC constructing his small segments and later he compared to how pastors joked with him and how this style of story telling has been used for ages in sermons and in churches. He made the point this was done because everyone couldn’t read so preachers created compelling stories with simplisitc rhetoric to capture larger emotional ideas as well as staying grounded and real.

To my enjoyment he also criticized local news and cable news for making the world appear smaller and with less wonder than what he aspires for news and journalism. I use clips from his show in my classroom from time to time and my students consistently have no idea what they are listening to–I feel they are so used to what Ira called “useless narratives” from video games and movies and tv. I hope to give them humor and compelling claims of value and policy. He said no matter the story or genre–short fiction or novels–the idea is to create empathy. He said that is what drives his work and also his interview style. To put yourself in to someone else’s shoes. Also he spoke of how radio can give you more visuals than tv–of course he was joking but that would be the idea of all text–to immerse the reader or listener into a reality or a space of true intimate experience. This is such an amazing idea and something I am sure all failed writers try to bring to fiction. This one anyway.

(Oh and I wonder if he is related to Seymour Glass?)