To Reach The Green Light At The End Of The Pier
FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES: "We are saving ourselves through the words," says Eleanor, the leading lady of a novel-in-progress. This exploration into the creative process -- which includes plenty of distractions/tangents /thoughts & rants by Eleanor, her Biographer, and selected guest artists -- will continue until Eleanor is certain her story is "right." (But we dare not jump ahead of ourselves.)
There will be the occasional typo (as Eleanor points out), and much of this is intended to be "original draft" -- what comes out of our mouths (heads) first, and then set down in that order. Not all of it will be included in the novel, but all of it is happening in real time.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
She is drinking vodka and grapefruit juice.
She is getting high on incense and smudge.
She is reading a book by John Fante.
She is listening to Bix Beiderbecke.
She walks next door and asks the neighbors for a cup of sugar. This being Halloween Eve, she wants things to be extra sweet. She asks the neighbors if they would like a vodka drink. "Or, I have some Champagne, if you'd prefer," she says. The neighbors tell her they just moved in and have no sugar. She is disappointed.
The nights have been colder, but she feels warmest when it's dark, strangely enough. (Or at least, it strikes her as being strange. Odd might be a better word.)
She is wondering where all of the carved pumpkins have gone. There are no carved pumpkins in this neighborhood. There are carved pumpkins on TV, but that's a whole different place.
She is on page 81 of the John Fante book. The vodka is almost gone. There is plenty of coffee for later. There are energy drinks, too. Red Bull. Sobe No Fear. There are shots of seven-hour energy. There are plenty of B vitamins to be had.
She wonders why Bix Beiderbecke had to go and die so young. She puts her vodka drink down. She stares at the Christmas Tree lights.
In fact, she stares at an entire world that nobody else knows.
"I was a man who thrived on solitude; without it I was like another man without food or water. Each day without solitude weakened me. I took no pride in my solitude; but I was dependent on it. The darkness of the room was like sunlight to me."
-- Charles Bukowski, from Factotum (1975)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Eleanor says: You know how you can look up to the sky and see images in the clouds? Pictures of animals and things? Well, now that it's Fall, I'm keeping my eyes looking in all directions. I can see words in the frost on the ground. I can see a whisper on my Biographer's breath, when it's cold enough for steamy air. I can look through the branches of the trees, where the leaves have fallen, and see a forest I never knew existed. All of these trees! I didn't know! I'm so sorry for not knowing! And yes, it's important to blink your eyes to get your focus back. But sometimes I'll blink my eyes just to make things all out of focus. I can see pictures there, too. Or words. Or another whisper. It's like seeing what you would ordinarily hear. And then, sometimes, the sounds and the pictures, the words, whatever, they don't match up and it's as though I'm watching a movie that's all out of synch -- you know, when the mouths of the characters move and their words are a bit late in arriving, or the other way around. It's beautiful really. It's like taking a piece of the world, of my world at least, and giving it a good shake, and then letting the parts float gently to the ground. Like a snowglobe, but not enclosed, and all the parts are breathing and not specks of white to cover up what's alive.
I don't know how this will fit into my story, but as soon as my Biographer is awake from his afternoon nap, I'll tell him. It has to matter, right? Because somehow -- everything matters. Especially the small things. The things nobody else seems to notice.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
From Big Sur, California comes This Side of Paradise's latest guest writer/artist, David Wayne Dunn. David was kind enough to contact us from his artist's workshop, and offered a poem especially for our scroll of a page, and for Eleanor, who says, "David's got the Beat!" We're also showcasing one of David's artworks, entitled "Abstract" (2007). Thank you, David, for sharing your words, and your inspiration. -- Geoff
"There Were Dawns So Generous"
by David Wayne Dunn
In a country heaven 'neath an autumn
light little birds in the bushes and nothing else.
The gray future and the walls of dreams
closing in the dawn was brief and passion
like a storm give me excess and days like
ivy creeping up a stone.
She was such a magical child dipped in her
own beauty but the tender kind though
violent in her secrets, sensuous in her mystery.
But she didn't like it when I cried now my
faith is warm like wood in a chair in the sun
oh give me excess and days like ivy
creeping up a stone...
Nights are poetry enough, wherever you are,
fragrant bells twinkling like stars but the
earth is far away.
Somewhere a child plays under the sun.
Somewhere a wild wind molds the clay.
Time is slow man is short there were dawns
so generous I hope you saw some.
Poem and image printed with permission of the author, copyright 2008.
David Wayne Dunn lives and works in Big Sur, California. You can check out more of David's words and images here: http://www.myspace.com/
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Eleanor says: I don't know much about math or science (even as much as I love the moon, and as much as I collect moondust). I don't know much about landscaping or how houses are built (as much as I do love The Little Room and as much as I do know about the inside of The Spirit House). Maybe I just don't care enough -- and maybe some things I don't want to know more about because it would ruin the mystery or miracle or whatever behind them (like the moon, for example). One thing I do know is human emotion, about how somebody feels, and what somebody feels when he's awake or sleeping and dreaming, or awake but still tired, or stressed or happy or sad or angry or ... whatever. I've spent a lot of time inside my Biographer's head, and maybe too much time, I don't know, but that's where I was born. I hope I die on the pages of a book, but I also hope I don't have to die. Sometimes, lately, what I'm feeling and what my Biographer is feeling are two different things. It's like he's taught me how to feel but now I'm on my own. I don't like feeling happy when he's not, or sad and depressed when he's happy. The thing is, we know what each other is feeling, even if it's different. And that part is weird. He says it's okay, that this is part of my story too -- all of the similarities as well as the differences. Sometimes though I would like to be what I was in the beginning, knowing even less, understanding even less I suppose is what I'm trying to say, and just being an echo of my Biographer's thoughts. That was an easier time. I also suppose I'm growing up and will have to leave soon, and this is exciting as much as it scares me. And I also do wonder about my friends in The Spirit House. Will they have the same chance as I've had? Will we meet again on the same pages of some book? Or will I have to wonder -- once I do leave. Or maybe I don't have to ever leave. Maybe I can find a really good hiding place. Inside my Biographer's head. Where even he can't find me. He has enough for my story. I could hide until he's finished, and then even longer, and make him promise to keep me safe, no matter what.
Then again, sometimes I am thinking that I have had too comfortable a life. Maybe I need to suffer more, to know what it's really like. Not to be a character, I mean -- but to be human.
A clock is ticking and the keyboard makes soft clickety sounds when we touch it but otherwise this is all colored lights, this being so early still, before the morning light, which we suppose will be a color too but not like the tiny Christmas tree or the green light or the light from The Spirit House, or the light above the painting of the girl who reads the same page in her book over and over again. That must be some page. Perhaps all of the very best stories have been condensed into a few paragraphs -- whatever fits on that marvelous page. Perhaps that's why she goes on reading, night following night and day following day, and looking so intently, so interested, so involved ... so immersed in the words.
But wait, says Eleanor, don't you see there are two pages, the way the girl is holding the book -- two pages she is reading. Okay, maybe she focuses just on the one page, but she has the book open, and there are two pages, so that's twice as many paragraphs, and twice as many stories, even if they'd still have to be condensed and so incredible to keep her attention.
Eleanor says, Do you think she's a made-up character like me? Except that she's not in my story. She would have to be in somebody else's story. And if that's true, what is she doing here, besides amazing us with how she looks at her book -- how she can do that so -- indefinitely, how she goes on reading like there's nothing else in the world that could be as good (as pure?) as this.
Do you think, Eleanor says, that the girl in the painting has a Biographer too, but her Biographer forgot about her? Or did her Biographer finish her story, and that's the book she's reading? What do you think about this?
We are listening to the clock ticking. We are listening to the hum of the fan that cools the computer. We are listening to the cool air -- to sounds that are in this air, but are still far enough away that they haven't yet reached our ears. We cannot listen at the speed of sound. We are always a little bit slower to catch on, to catch up. But we try.
Friday, October 24, 2008
"From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached."
-- Franz Kafka
Eleanor is twirling until she's too dizzy to stay upright. (Even characters carry weight; we must remember this.)
Eleanor is laughing -- at herself, because of herself, at her Biographer ... who looks upon her with fondness. (Your characters need a sense of humor, yes, her Biographer nods. How else will they entertain themselves when you're not around, when you're not putting down the words?)
Eleanor leans against the side of The Spirit House. Another party going on inside tonight, but she's more comfortable here, under the glow of the green light.
Read me some Kafka, she says. Read me some Bukowski. Read me some Henry Miller. Put on some music. Let's play Serge Gainsbourg, may we? Let's play fun, lots of fun. I want fun and darkness and light. I want to dance some more. I want to laugh until dawn. I want to fall asleep under the moon and wake with the sun on my face. I want to smile for no reason. Let's play some Artie Shaw. Read me some Emily Dickinson. Read me some Emily Bronte. Read me some Emily Post. Read me all of the Emilys. I don't want to forget anything. I want to be bulimic with words and sounds, with voices, with noise, and silence too, with warmth, with a gentle breeze ... something to tickle me, and then I want to do it all again.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Eleanor is in a Shakespeare mode & mood this week. And this Shakespeare Sonnet has a little something for everyone -- writers and readers (Muses, too).
Eleanor has her Biographer read the words aloud, and then repeat the line:
"I think good thoughts whilst other write good words."
Eleanor tells her Biographer: "I'll think the thoughts, you write the words, and we can both say, 'Amen.'"
Her Biographer thinks this is a fair bargain, so we are awake at 4 in the morning, to write our good words (and think some good thoughts, as well).
"Sonnet # 85"
by William Shakespeare
My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still,
While comments of your praise, richly compiled,
Reserve their character with golden quill
And precious phrase by all the Muses filed.
I think good thoughts whilst other write good words,
And like unletter'd clerk still cry 'Amen'
To every hymn that able spirit affords
In polish'd form of well-refined pen.
Hearing you praised, I say ''Tis so, 'tis true,'
And to the most of praise add something more;
But that is in my thought, whose love to you,
Though words come hindmost, holds his rank before.
Then others for the breath of words respect,
Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Eleanor's fortune cookie reveals this: "Your lucky number for this week is the number five." (However, the "lucky numbers" on the reverse side do not include the number five. They are 10, 27, 35, 37, 45, 46. Three of those numbers are multiples of five, Eleanor notices.)
"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become." -- Buddha
"I am me," Eleanor says. "I think me, and so I become me."
Eleanor's Biographer contemplates what he thinks, and what he will become. Perhaps, for now, he will rely on Eleanor for direction. Perhaps.
It is 3-something in the morning. Usually we hear trains in the distance at this time of the morning. But today, there is silence. By 6 a.m., the planes will begin to fly overhead. Later, the garbage truck will drown out the noise of the planes, at least for a few moments. After that, we have no idea what sounds we will hear.
We feel freedom in this silence.
"I am me," Eleanor repeats, over and over. (Who is to argue?)
Monday, October 20, 2008
"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."
-- Albert Einstein
Friday, October 17, 2008
"Sonnet # 81"
by William Shakespeare
Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten;
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombed in men's eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live -- such virtue hath my pen --
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.
"My Biographer is coming to, though he looks pale as a ghost from too much moondust. I think I overdid it, but extreme times require extreme measures," Eleanor says. "I'll bring him a cup of water, and when he's ready, some coffee, and then, after that, his Moleskine notebook and a pen."
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."
-- Ray Bradbury
"I am drunk on the moondust," Eleanor says. "I have given some to my Biographer, and he is drunk. We will not be destroyed. I will make sure that nothing destroys us. There is too much at stake. I have waited too long. I am taking complete control. It's my turn now."
"We have discovered the New World, but in reverse," Eleanor says. "All I can see is -- well -- everything. Everything! I feel like the only character in the universe. I am being splashed with impossible thoughts, but they're good looking thoughts, let me tell you. I wonder why anybody would think these thoughts are impossible? And I can blink my eyes with nothing going away -- except for me that is. I'm floating. If I wasn't so surreal, this world around me certainly would be."
Monday, October 13, 2008
Eleanor says, It's a street. A street! One street and some tall buildings that separate us from the Atlantic Ocean. We are almost to the beach. We are almost to seeing the Full Moon over the water. We are almost to the next step of our journey. I have so much to tell, but I have a word limit. My Biographer tells me that the battery power on the computer we're using is about to go, and we need to conserve what's left for the ocean. We need to reach the ocean and run into the waves and feel the water, and the foam, and whatever else is there -- the endless sunrises and sunsets -- watching the horizon so hard that we can't see the distance with any clarity at all, and also knowing that something -- something very good and magical and -- something -- exists out there, just beyond what our eyes are telling our brains. But we have one street to go. One street! I am repeating myself, because it's dark now, and we have the moon to guide us and we should be there by now, but we are close ... we are so very very very close. I can taste the salt. I can taste the salt on my Biographer's thoughts. I can taste the salt. It makes me mad with desire. It makes me mad with lust for more words. Is it proper that I lust over the words to my story? Is this a mortal sin? We are so close, so very very very close. We will close our eyes and sleep, and when the morning sun warms our faces, we will cross the street, and walk past the tall buildings, and we will see mirages and dreams that are ALIVE, breathing, and we will see the mirrors of our faces in the mist, in the water. I will put a seashell to my ear, and tell my Biographer everything it whispers to me. I am so -- I am so ... ready. Ready for this.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
We are here.
Eleanor keeps telling me so.
We won't disappear.
Eleanor keeps telling me so.
When your character speaks so eloquently (and also loud enough that you have to listen!), it's good to follow her advice. Your head cannot steer you wrong, especially if your head and heart are in cahoots with each other. There are some times when you must venture into the wilderness without looking back, and without worrying about enough postage for a postcard. If Eleanor keeps taking me this far out, this far into an intense landscape like no other, please be patient with us.
Read the narrative so far, Eleanor says. Scroll down to the middle, and read some of my stories and my thoughts, and where we've already been, and what we've already come through. It's a jungle out here, but's it's been a jungle for a long time now.
I trust the voice in my head. It's Eleanor. I trust Eleanor. I hope you will trust us both. We shall have plenty to tell, upon our return. -- Geoff
Lots and lots, Eleanor says.
"Rather, I think one should write, as nearly as possible, as if he were the first person on earth and was humbly and sincerely putting on paper that which he saw and experienced and loved and lost; what his passing thoughts were and his sorrows and desires."
-- Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
"The sky was clear -- remarkably clear -- and the twinkling of all the stars seemed to be but throbs of one body, timed by a common pulse."
-- Thomas Hardy
"But during the daylight, we looked up, and saw that the sky was writing us messages. It was crying -- crying for help," Eleanor says. "And all I could do was shout toward the clouds, to say, 'I'm listening! I'm listening!'"
Eleanor's Biographer: We sat in the open meadow, and we watched as the sky spelled out a story, one letter at a time. We were a long way from home, but in no hurry to find our way back.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Eleanor: My Biographer and I are currently somewhere out in the wild (I'm not good with maps, unless I'm inside The Little Room), searching for the White Butterfly, and perhaps other mystical or mythical creatures that live beyond our walls, and way past our imaginations. We have mentioned this in previous postings -- the White Butterfly, I mean, but in previous postings, we didn't have to go looking, so this is new territory for us, and to be sure, we have not, to this point, been entirely sure what the White Butterfly means to us, or our journey, or my story -- and my story, of course, is most important to me, and I have allowed myself to be entirely selfish on this matter.
The White Butterfly always seemed to find us, before, so my thinking is, this is a sign, a turning point, a fork in the road, whatever you want to call it. Right now, I can tell you this. The wind is still. The sun is bright. The sun is so bright that I need to hide under my Biographer's hat, so I don't get burned.
You don't think a character can get sunburn? There is much that the human world can learn from its made-up characters, and just possibly you might discover that we are not so made-up after all. (Something I need to properly convey to my Biographer, but I will succeed on this subject. I am determined. Those of you who know me -- know how determined I can be.)
You are probably wondering, too, why I don't just go back inside my Biographer's head. The reason is simple. There are so many thoughts hurrying around in there that I don't want to accidentally step on any. Even one thought lost (there are never really any "lost thoughts" -- but you can kill a thought, which is why I put the words that way: thought lost) ... could be the thought that matters.
We, or I, will add to this entry as soon as we have an update, and this is a promise. I put my character life at stake for this promise.
"My Biographer found a yellow rose. I assured him that it was sent to us by St. Therese," Eleanor says. "Now I'm still not sure if I have any religion at all -- I mean, there's no chapter in my story yet about me being this faith or that faith, but faith as a concept I must have, because I do have my Saint (or at least my Biographer has allowed me St. Therese), and I know she'll watch over us. So far, we have not found the White Butterfly, or rather, the White Butterfly has not found us. Something has to happen. I told my Biographer we need to go farther into the wild. We need to go so far into the wild that nobody can find us. If we're that far away from everybody and everything, we won't need possession of courage anymore, because we'll already be there. We won't need fear either. Checks and balances, my Biographer says. Courage and fear are like friends who got along once, but now throw rocks through each other's windows. Anyhow, that's how it works. It's a crazy beautiful system. You leave it all behind, as long as you're willing to be that far out -- that far away, so that what used to stop you -- or start you for that matter -- has no hold or power over you. So that's where we're going. And I don't know how long it will take us to get there, but we won't stop until we know for sure that we cannot go any farther out."
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
I don't know what I was thinking, Eleanor says.
"A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables."
-- Gertrude Stein
Eleanor looks to her Biographer, who says, What are you suggesting, Eleanor?
"At that instant he saw, in one blaze of light, an image of unutterable conviction, the reason why the artist works and lives and has his being -- the reward he seeks -- the only reward he cares about, without which there is nothing. It is to snare the spirits of mankind in nets of magic, to make his life prevail through his creation, to wreak the vision of his life, the rude and painful substance of his own experience, into the congruence of blazing and enchanted images that are themselves the core of life, the essential pattern whence all other things proceed, the kernel of eternity."
-- Thomas Wolfe, from Of Time and the River (1935)
Thomas Wolfe was born this day, Oct. 3, 1900, in Asheville, N.C., and he is buried in Asheville, in Riverside Cemetery. "Visiting" Thomas Wolfe when I lived in Asheville was always both a spiritual and literary time for me. My very first visit set the tone. In front of the Wolfe family plot was a young woman, probably late teens, sitting on a small section of steps, with her notebook out, her pen in action, and I nodded to her as I passed a good 10 feet between us, me walking up the grass. We were there for the same reason: to be inspired, to be reminded that words do matter, that words live and grow in meaning, that words can be in this way like children, and we place in them our love and trust, and through life, they bring us joy and a sense of contentment, a kind of wonder that can't be explained, and that eternal hope ... that absent, we are lost.
"Look Homeward" -- home is all around us. Happy Birthday, Thomas Wolfe. -- Geoff
ELEANOR says: "Please turn the page. Keep reading."
For more of Eleanor and her Biographer -- as well as the work of our many guest artists -- check out the older postings. "Everything is part of the process, and the process is the journey," Eleanor says.