Archive for the 'A writer’s diary' Category
|I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy how’s yer soul?”
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind,”
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires an’ all:
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
“Tommy Atkins,” or just “Tommy,” is the name popularly given to the typical British soldier.
I’m a bibliophile. I think it’s because books were my refuge when I was young. Escapism. I remember, as an early teenager, closing the door to my room, and in the dim light presented by a single, cheap lamp, reading my favorite fantasy novels–The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock. To this day I consider those books to be the exemplary way to present an anti-hero. And the hero dies at the end– groundbreaking in the day of Tolkien’esque fantasy.
I managed to bring with me to Germany, about 45 of the books from my library and there will be more on the way. The library here on the base is very good, and I’ll make pleanty of use of it.
Reading through Random House’s top 100 books of all time (English language), it was interesting how many of those books I’ve actually read.
Here’s what I remember reading from the list:
The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe
The Catcher in the Rye
The Secret Agent
I’m embarassed of course at how many books on the list I have not read. I’m sure I wouldn’t like most of them, as I feel that while many of the older writers that make up this list were great artists, most of their techniques and language doesn’t apply now. There are exceptions of course. Leo Tolstoy comes to mind. This list is only of books originally composed in the English language, so the great Russian writers aren’t listed. You can never have a complete list of great novels without Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Anna Karenina.
I own several other books on the list that I’ve not gotten to, but will eventually. I, Claudius (the Public Broadcasting mini-series was awesome, though), Catch-22, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Nostromo. Also, take note that the lsit was the board’s list. There was also a reader’s list which included more science-fiction, a genre always undercut by “experts”. To me an expert on books is anyone who reads them. I find most literary critics to be pompus, pipe-smoking libs who think a great book is one they can’t understand. Of course, I’m suspicious of the reader’s list too, because it contains far to many novels from Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard, lending more of a cult-following and notoriety factor than you’d want if you were seeking objective critique ( I almost said Objectivism). And the board loses some credibility by forgetting, To Kill a Mockingbird and Middlemarch. Laughable…
There are many great books that will never make any lists. Feel free to list some in your comments. Like I said, great books don’t have to be on literary lists.
In the past three years, I’ve experienced an enormous amount of change. Change can be good. Too much change is bad.
We all need a sense of stability. Something that we know we can count on to be there for us when we wake up. And that thing has to make us feel good.
As I said, over the last three years, change has been its own pattern in my life. A divorce, leaving my job as a police officer, a job which taught me more than I knew about life and people than all of my other time combined. I worked as a cop for eight years. I don’t regret it, even though it’s a tough job for an introvert. It brought me out of my shell a bit, toughened me, sharpened me.
But it was time to go. Especially after the divorce. A divorce can ruin you or save you. I’m not sure which mine did or will do, to be truthful. Everything I had, came and went with that marriage, so I had to start over. Leaving my previous job was a way of trying to escape the memories of that marriage. It was a partially successful gambit, because I took to writing, something I’d always wanted to do, and knew I had a knack for, at leat I think so. I completed a novel. I don’t know how good it is and it doesn’t really matter, because it took a lot of work and its power as catharsis was undeniable. When I sit here and think of writing it, I get chills. My time alone, thinking and typing at home, at the coffee shop, finishing 350 pages, it’s an achievment for me.
I lost a brother last year, too. I didn’t know him very well, and hadn’t seen him in decades. He was married, with children and he worked for a power company in Georgia. The prior Christmas, I’d received a card from he and his wife. He’d provided a phone number and invitation to call him. But I put the card in a drawer and never called. My sense of guilt, something I’ve carried with me since childhood, prevented me dialing that number. I wasn’t what I wanted to be–stable, in control of my life, and able to give much to others. Despite having an honorable profession, I felt like a bum. From my earliest days, starting from when my grandfather died, I’ve felt mysterious guilt. Or perhaps “angst”, as Soren Kierkegaard would have called it. A year after getting the card, I was notified that Charlie, my brother, had died when he fell several hundred feet from a cell-tower. I’m told he looked like most men in my family, with a rugged build and blue-collar temperment. Now, I had not only to deal with my own guilt and pain, but that of my father, who hadn’t seen Charlie in a long time, either. My father is disabled, has little but his children and the stories he can tell with a proud smile of them. He’s experienced the sudden loss of a father, brother, and son now. I worry about him every day, which makes being away from home tougher. This brought me to the realization that everything I’ve ever done, everything I’ve ever accomplished, was in some way connected to trying to make Dad proud. To aleviate my sense of guilt.
So, now I’m in the Army. It’s still too early to say if it was a good choice. The training environment is intentionally kept stressful, so I can’t really say it’s been too enjoyable. I’m in what many consider the best job in the Army–Intelligence. I’m good at it too. Time will tell, as always…
I hope that the Army brings me some stability in the coming years. I want a family too. I do want to marry again, I think. One thing I’ve learned is that almost all successful people have a measure of family to rely on. Even if it’s just a call from Mom or Dad, it makes a difference.
Barack and his acolytes preach change. I say beware what you wish for.