With the exception of only half a handful of people, my book project, tentatively titled THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY, has existed only on my laptop and in between the cracks of my fluctuating social life. Seems everything I see, smell, or hear somehow becomes part of it; an ever-growing web of associations, objectives, and labor that would have no end. Working in this way, I've had a difficult time working through the chapters chronologically and my structuring has suffered. Chapters come out jumbled, bumbling, and jittery.
But on Friday last, I got a hefty dose of what I most needed, some welcome, nourishing praise and admiration! The ever-fabulous, all-seeing Heige
Kim scheduled me to read at her new gorgeous art gallery in Rosendale
, New York, Roos Arts
Visual highlights from the reading here
I read the first chapter of the manuscript, which chronicles the last 24 hours of my father's life, and bits of the second chapter, which accounts my nervous breakdown in Vladivostok, Russia. (I say "nervous breakdown" with hesitancy. Other than a very scary run-in with a Russian little boss, I'm to this day not sure what I had, but it did cause me to flee the country.) Then I ran through a host of slides that covered Japan to Russia, Estonia to Poland, Italy to Greece, Cyprus, and a dozen African countries. One would think that, while I spend my quiet days pounding at the keys, I wouldn't lose sight of the project as whole (I mean, for all practical purposes, this project is my job), but the truth is that a chapter is like a leaky trough. It's got to be contained to read well, to structurally carry the water, but that water often must run out the cracks to other troughs. Messy metaphor, to be sure. Point being, I got into a rut of running after content and forgot the overall structure. Head down, under water. Lapsing believer.
The review of my images in front of an audience brought me back to the necessary arc of the story and rejuvenated my efforts. It's been a great week, complete with much writing, deadline scheduling and, most importantly, plans for completion. End of September, I do believe.
Highlights for me from the evening at Roos
? Chapter 1 caused one squeamish
attendee to leave her chair for fresh air. Later, when I explained that I would be skipping a section of Chapter 2, a woman in the front commanded, "Well, don't skip too much!" And still later, apropos
of nothing but a break in sentences, another interjected, "You're a good writer." What more could a slogging aspiring writer want? Pure balm for my self-doubt, pure adrenaline to a marathoner at the 15th mile. You get the picture.
What did these comments really mean to me? That my writing engaged strangers. In the first instance in a visceral way. In the second two, in a way that anyone tapping out words all the time can only hope for. These three may not be literary agents, but they were an audience. They validated me; they re-infused me with faith in the validity of my project. To them, and to my generous host, I give the very greatest thanks!