Tuesday, March 29, 2011


When a booklength project is taken on for publication, you feel pleased with yourself because of the trinity of individuals happy with the project, you, of course, your literary agent, and the editor who has expressed enthusiasm for the project by offering to publish it.  You know there is more to the picture, that you are by no means finished with the project.  Forces involving taste, vision, expectation, and pure randomness also will have things to say and do where the project is related.

You felt the cosmic dice beginning to roll when the editor called to speak with you, express her enthusiasm for what you had done.  Watch out.  Indeed.  Her vision of the project--in this case a nonfiction project--was somewhat more grand than yours; she saw it as appropriate for two segments of readers, a situation one might call a crossover.  As you listened to her arguments for this conflation of reading public, you began to translate the downstream effects.  No need to worry, she'd have done that for you had you not articulated the implications.

The dice were bouncing off the green felt bumper when she told you how happy she was with the six hundred twenty page manuscript.  "Your vision calls for a greater reflection of the dual readership, which means a different focus, all within the same word length,"  you said.

"That sums it up,"  she said.

You were in large measure on time, the final seventy pages going in yesterday, late afternoon.  Early indications beyond your own belief that you'd made the necessary changes seemed to have been positive, allowing you the sense of feeling like a thirsty plant, wanting the assurance of water, perhaps sunlight, perhaps even a bit of other nourishment.

Even when you were working on projects where you were not so close to the degree of investment you feel with this one, there were still those moments that remind you of being panhandled with some vigor for spare change, that sense of someone seeing one more thing that could be done, the dread that if could well be you who saw and needed the one last thing to be done.

Why should there be any certainty where producing written material is concerned?  Simple answer:  There shouldn't be.  More complex answer:  Why should there ever be certainty?

Parts of such ventures are games.  Where ever you look, individuals appear who enjoy games.  Some games involve balls or perhaps pucks or weights, but they are still games with rules for performance and for scoring.  They have time limits, just as life has a time limit.  They have consequences to any number of individuals who are mere observers of results and probabilities.

You did not finish the celebratory coffee you ordered earlier nor the frothy draft beer you ordered still later, nor the small, hand-crafted pizza you ordered even later.  You were in some ways going through motions, waiting for the other shoe--any other shoe--to drop.

Music, the company of friends, lazing with Sally, and reading are portions of your equivalent of watering the neglected plant.  Deep within your stash of compact disks was a remastered reedition of"Red Garland's Piano," a satisfying venture into the world of blues and pre-bebop, leading to Garland's being yanked by Miles Davis into one of the most significant groups modern jazz has known.  There is such energy in the music and its chromatic flight of inventiveness, reminding you of textures, braids of connective tissue, evidences of life all about, evoking in you the feelings of nostalgia that send shivers of enjoyment along your synapses.

You first had the CD back in the late '50s, when it was a vinyl 331/3, drawn into the sounds of the block chords, sharp ninths, somewhere between the sounds of tinkling crystal and laughter, intimate and complex in its uniqueness.  You learned of Garland and much of his repertoire from that album, listening to it over and over, thinking how splendid it would be to have your own voice so recognizable, so easy to fit in with shorter narratives as well as the longer ones.

Listening now, particularly to track number one, makes you aware how important the feelings of nostalgia are to you, and how, all this time later, you seek to impart it into your own work with that same suspenseful bass line Garland brings up through his left hand.

Nostalgia is the container that is difficult to fill; thinking back on past moments of significance, you can manage with ease to bring one more vision, one more thing to the table.

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