Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Innocents Abroad

I approach blog time in a retrospective frame of feeling, which means that although I know what is to come next in Exit, Pursued by a Bear, those bear feelings are trumped by this sense of metaphor:

1. Being a writer is much like being a tourist.

2. You are committed to going somewhere, but at the outset you shop around for a glamorous destination.

3. Then you listen to other writer/tourists describing their journeys, and you think...

4. After you have stopped thinking long enough to get back to work, you begin looking about for bargain fares.

5. I spent about five years in that life, signing a number of contracts, but never getting beyond having to tell myself that the accommodations were only so-so.

6. Indeed, I came to the point where fiction stopped being fun.

7. Looking at those magazine, newspaper, and TV ads of various cruises was of a piece with looking at the persons in the waiting rooms of clinics or emergency rooms--both populations were hopeful of finding recovery.

8. "Where have you been?" young Jovanovich asked me as I sat in his office at 652 Third Avenue. He was not wondering why I was late, because I wasn't; he was wondering what other publishing houses had I worked for, which was why I was in his office, hopeful of being hired by what was then Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. One or two of my answers surprised him to the poit where we actually talked for more than an hour.

9. "Where have you been?" is a question I have asked myself over and over again, not at all happy with the early answers, not happy until one day, with no warning, the right answer popped out. No more cheap cruises or bargain packages.

10. The right answer is terra incognita.

11. When you return from terra incognita, you have answers to questions that may or may not have been asked, answers you may not think to ask yourself for some time to come. But they are embedded within you, waiting for you to recognize them. No cruise lines ply those waters, no guides lay in wait to sell you trinkets or show you ruins less dramatic than, say, the lobby of the Pantges theater on Hollywood Boulevard or the men's room of the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. Nor does terra incognita threaten to become a theme park somewhere because nobody but you knows where it is until it is discovered.

12. My late father had some fluency in other languages than English, but Italian was not one of those languages. He could say "Go be fruitful and multiply yourself," but this is no surprise because it is my belief that most men know how to say this in a dazzling array of languages. The other thing he knew how to say in Italian, and did say with come regularity as a kind of parting shot was "Cuand' arrive, scrive." When you get there, write. Toward the end of his life, our partings would begin with him sayig, "Cuand'arrive--" and me finishing the mantra, "--scrive." Thus once again, Jake had it all laid out for me.

13. Where have you been?

14. Terra incognita.

15. Cuand'arrive, scrive.

3 comments:

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

Scrive bene.

12. "Go be fruitful...etc" - if that translates into the Italian I know, that's very funny. (but that's just me)

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

excuse me - me again. Just visited the Madonna Inn and cracked up. Such class! Such...(the Yosemite is beyond everything a caveman could ever dream of)
(deserves a double *snork*)

Lori Witzel said...

Fine post.

The medieval picture-makers laid it out with aeolians blowing around the edges, monstrous races glowering from the place where one falls off the horizon.

Me?
I hope to get to the further outer orbits, past aeolians and monsters, with wit enough to leave a few breadcrumbs while telling the tale.