Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Big Three

Among the pocket-sized notebooks you carry with you, three have become the most pocket worn. These include a notebook devoted to novels you've read and reread to the point where they seem to have become a special part of your life, even though they deal with events remote from your life.

These hundred or so novels have also given you incidents wherein editors have said in so many words, Enough, already with Ahab and Ishmael and the great white whale; enough with Pip, the young cabin boy who goes lost for a time and is never the same again, accordingly having a remarkable effect on Ahab.

And these same editors have told you, Enough, already, with the likes of Wile E. Coyote.  And although there are some characters from plays, which certainly bear dramatic kinship with novels, you have heard such admonishments as, Enough with Macbeth, enough with the three witches.

But neither these characters nor the novels and plays in which they appeared are content to be silences.  Instead, they appear to be asking you to find a way to write a book about them, doing so in a way where you can say to potential readers, Alright, now you need to find your own novels and characters that define and delight and troll and follow you about,



There is also a notebook filled with the names of characters from the books of other writers, and a notebook filled with brief descriptions of characters of your own invention, men, women, and young persons who have come to you in dreams or dream-like states, revealing definitive secrets about themselves.


One of these latter characters is based on a man who was your closest friend for many years.  The character seems to have his gentle traits, many of his interests, and quite a few of his abilities.  But while your friend, in real life, was never a fence or in any way dealt with stolen goods, this character, in some ways like Gatsby, is rumored to have done so.

Other of these characters seem to have appeared before you, wishing to be given the chance to show you what delightful and engaging persons they might be, were they to be allowed the means to interact with their own ensemble groups of friends and associates.  They are persuasive to the point where you are not certain they are to be trusted.  They might not steal your silverware, although that is a poor example, because your silverware is not all that worth stealing; they might, however, steal the silverware of your friends and the silverware of the characters you do use.

At any given moment in your daily routine, these characters buoy your imagination and enthusiasm in ways some of the more remarkable dogs and cats in your life have enlivened your sense of awareness and purpose.  Here you are, launched into your eighth decade, beset by a need to live well into your ninth decade, aware of your rate of productivity, concerned by the amount of effort and process necessary for you to produce work that will satisfy you.  This has little to do with any notion of slowing down on your part, rather instead with the understanding, at last, of the necessary effort to get down what you wish.

You carry about other notebooks, either the reliable Moleskines, or your more recent discovery, Field Notes.  Many of these begin their life with you as one thing, then with dispatch and opportunism, become something quite else.  

You've learned to give headings or date lines to the various types of notes, which can range from anything to what at first blush seem to be useful things to remember from faculty meetings to outright admissions that no such usefulness is to be had, followed by an end date and time so that you will not get notes conflated with previous or future notes within the same booklet.

All your notebooks define you; small question about that, but the Big Three, the list of novels, and the two separate collections of characters, define a less scattered, less random image of you, as the complex and notional entity you are, but also, in a larger sense, as a record of your education process, the subjects you've grappled with, the directions these educational arm wrestling sessions have led you, and your own need for future education.  

Most surprising of all to you, the fact that these three, The Big Three, lead you to reconsider things you once thought to be of no use to you or, indeed, things you grappled with in previous times with no successful outcome.  

Your notes not only define you, they suggest the work to be done.

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