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.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
(Note: This was originally posted Sept. 11, 2008. It seems to fit better in this section of the scroll, however. -- Geoff)
("We are working through Eleanor's life stories," Eleanor's Biographer says)
Eleanor says, I am thinking of three words between the letters H and Z.
H and Z, she repeats. If you think about it, it almost sounds like a department store, but that's not what I'm thinking. Still -- okay then -- let's try it out, like this. H would be one of the old geezers who founded the department store, and Z would be the other old geezer. Let me work with this now, Eleanor says. We can call H -- Homer. We can call Z -- Zooey. Maybe Zooey isn't an old geezer at all, but she's somebody from a J.D. Salinger book. Homer can be the lone geezer, then, and Zooey can be the voice of reason, somebody young and beautiful but not married or otherwise involved or otherwise related to Homer. A business partnership, and a savvy one too, because Zooey had all of the money and Homer had the ancient connections, but he lost his money in the war, of course. One of the wars. Those forgotten wars, you know? H and Z would have opened its doors in the late 1970s sometime. By now, many years later, Homer has lost his mind, but Zooey can still run things from her assisted living facility. She's not the female version of an old geezer -- no no no, I repeat -- but she did have a horrible car-pedestrian accident. Zooey was the pedestrian. She was just trying to cross the street, like Margaret Mitchell, you know, of Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Except that Margaret Mitchell was killed and Zooey was only hurt and maimed. ("Only?") Zooey stayed up nights to read about pedestrians who did everything right, like look both ways, and then look both ways again, and then go with the green walk light. That was what she did. Then she read about cars that ran into crowds of people, intentionally or not. And then she read about the jaywalkers. Zooey got a lot of reading done. It was kind of funny, she thought -- Zooey thought, because here she was in a wheelchair with her legs useless, but she was so powerful because Homer had lost his mind, the old geezer, and the board members had to listen to her. Whatever decisions about the department store she felt like making. It could be so much fun at times, just to see them sweat. Oh but the fact was -- well, Zooey wished she had fallen from a horse, or had fallen down the stairs, as in, really, more like being pushed by a horrible violent ex-lover and getting the last laugh when she testified in court and sent him away to the big house. It wasn't remotely like that, of course. Accidents happen every day. The car that hit Zooey on a Tuesday could have run into a different pedestrian on a Wednesday and in the grand scheme of things, nothing much would be changed. There would be one more hurt and maimed person. Now, with all of her money, Zooey could have lived at home, with nurses caring for her, round the clock. She was too sensible though, that girl. She sold the house and invested the money, which only made her richer, and went to the assisted living facility because she knew she could meet people there -- people with stories. Zooey would always have the best story, because she could change it according to the person she met. As long as they have their minds, Zooey said often enough to her nurses. As long as they have their minds.
No. It happened differently. After some time, Zooey found herself attracted to the people who had lost their minds. They didn't know where they were. They lived inside memory vacuums. They lived in harmony with everything around them. They smiled when spoken to -- when spoken to, well, you know, as in who knows what world they were currently living in. If you can smile like that, in your different world, or worlds, who's to say you aren't happy-go-lucky.
Happy-go-lucky. Eleanor allows the word "lucky" to settle inside her head. I am thinking of three words between H and Z. No, lucky is not one of the words. Wrong! You lose! Next player!
Zooey was better than the word lucky, obviously ... this, the Zooey Eleanor made up, the Zooey who was named after Zooey in Salinger, the tragic (from the outside looking in) Zooey who chose to live around crazy, sick people because some of them weren't sad and forgotten. Some of them were still smiling after all these years, and would always be smiling. That's a very good thing, yes?
Eleanor thought of herself as Zooey, and then she thought of herself in one of those memory vacuum worlds. And this is what it was like. It was always sunny, but not too hot. There was a seashore. There were people having a grand old time at the seashore. Maybe it was the South of France, and maybe it was the 1920s, like with Fitzgerald and their friends the Murphys and the other wealthy and talented types who threw parties that lasted from one day to the next. There weren't any drunks -- just parties and the sunshine and the lapping of waves. If you walked down the beach a little way, you could find a quiet spot. You'd still be invited to the parties, yes, but in your quiet spot, for a few hours at least, you could stretch out (alone) and feel the sun across your body and listen to the waves, and hear the sea birds, and even some faint laughter -- laughter carried by the breeze to tickle your nose.
In your quiet spot, you could close your eyes but see the world. Absolutely stunning! This was freedom. This was being alive, whatever your circumstances -- however you got here.
Eleanor says, I am thinking of three words between the letters H and Z.
Eleanor says, Words can set you free.
Eleanor says, I need to be set free.
Eleanor says, I am thinking of three words between H and Z. Please don't guess "lucky." That's not one of them. I already told you. That's so done with. That's so gone. That's so ... not right. (But I wish it, sometimes. Luck. You know? If I can't have the three words, I mean.)
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Eleanor to her Biographer: I am saying Please, God quite a lot lately. I think I'm praying, but maybe I'm not, because you still haven't told me -- I mean, you haven't written me -- this part -- you know -- you haven't given me any information at all about what I do believe in. Do I believe in God? What kind of religion do I have if I do believe in God? Or is religion somehow beneath me, because I'm supposed to have such angst? I mean, is this whole concept about God or no God beneath a made-up character like I am? I just want to know, because we're getting so close to the end. I guess I need to know. Yes, I need to know, and you need to tell me.
Eleanor's Biographer: You favorite Saint is Saint Therese. I've told you this. I've written it down. So, it's a fact -- part of your life. But I don't know the rest yet, even as close as we are to the end. About your beliefs, your convictions. It might be that you just like having a favorite Saint, and there's nothing wrong with that. Lots of people have favorite Saints but don't really go for the idea of God at all. It's like history. You pick your martyr. Your favorite martyr. Kind of like that.
Eleanor: But you do know! You know!
Eleanor (after a pause, and in a whisper): I need to know. Please. Please, write this down for me, and don't cut it out when you revise me. Leave it in, whatever you decide to write. I just want consistency. It's so difficult right now. Maybe not for you, but for me it is.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Excerpt. Discussion between Eleanor and her Biographer, about the process, leading to the end of her story.
Eleanor: I turned to the last page of my story. I know what your plans are. I've read the last line.
Biographer: Then you know.
-- It's not that I don't like the ending, but I want a new one is all I'm saying.
-- I expected you to say something like this. Why do you think I left the pages out, in plain sight?
-- I'm inside your head, stupid. I could have jumped ahead anytime. I just -- well, I guess I held back, because I was hoping for more.
-- You surprise me, Eleanor. By not jumping ahead. You know I write the endings before I finish the middle parts.
-- You underestimate me. I have terrific self-restraint. You could learn from me, you know.
-- I never underestimate you. You still surprise me, Eleanor. You have that power, which is why I wanted to write your story in the first place. Why I had to write your story. To get it right. And I'm still not done. The middle parts, remember. I need to finish those.
-- It's kind of funny, because I imagine you having all of the power. Even though I want the power. But you're human and I want to be human, and it's up to you to make me real, like my story. Getting it right.
-- What does a person say to a voice inside his head? Come on, Eleanor. You talk so much, sometimes I listen to your voice and I drift off, and I'm hoping that what you tell me will stick around in my subconscious.
-- I am everywhere, yes! And it's true, sometimes I whisper. And sometimes I talk in a low voice so you won't hear me. Sometimes I cover my mouth so you won't be able to make out what I'm saying. You can sue me if you want, I don't mind. You wouldn't win, but we'd have fun in court. I love the judicial system.
-- You like to play, Eleanor, this we both know. I almost think you're playing with me now, this nonsense you're talking.
-- I like fun and games, of course I do. But it's not nonsense. I am completely serious. And the judicial system does kind of suck, don't you think? But as long as I win, I'm okay with that.
-- So what's wrong with the ending? You say, it's not that you don't like it the current ending, but ... but -- what?
-- I want explosions.
-- I want car chases.
-- How do you suppose I write this kind of dramatic ending? It wouldn't make sense. We already have a dramatic ending that's going to knock people off their feet. Or out of their chairs. Or make them gasp on the subway, reading you. All those people riding the subway and zoning out to their books, and then, suddenly -- crash, boom, whatever.
-- That's just it, don't you see? Don't you understand? The ending, it makes sense. You say it doesn't, but it does. It makes too much sense, in a weird way at least. I want to have people read my story and go, Wow. I never expected so many explosions and car chases. What's up with that?
-- Anything else?
-- I want a musical score. I want you to write me with a beat.
-- You do like Kerouac.
-- I'm one of the mad ones, you know.
-- Okay, anything I've missed here?
-- (pause) I think I want more doughnuts. Definitely more doughnuts.
-- Just so I'm hearing you correctly, you want explosions, car chases and doughnuts?
-- People wouldn't expect that kind of combination. You could probably even keep what you have and just add the explosions and car chases. The doughnuts are the easy part.
-- So it's all said and done, and then we sit down and eat doughnuts?
-- And listen to the music. The music has to be just right. You need to get my story right, just like I've told you all along, but the music needs to be exactly right too. I want people to pick out their favorite songs and download them and put them on their Walkmans.
-- I'm not sure how many people out there still use Walkmans, Eleanor.
-- Well, they should. I guess I am half-Luddite or something. I like Walkmans.
-- Well, I'm not sure people will be able to download songs to Walkmans.
-- With all of the technology out there, why not? Even a half-Luddite knows this much. Anything is possible. And if they can't, it just proves my point that Walkmans are coming back. People need their cassettes. People forget they have all of their cassettes and then they have nothing to listen to them with. It's like having a door that used to lead somewhere and now it doesn't because people want new toys. People forget there's still a door there, but if they step outside, they fall. That's kind of crazy. It's not being prepared, is all.
-- How about this, Eleanor. How about you write your own ending, and I'll be your editor.
-- I'm not the writer. I'm the character. Your character. I can't write my own ending. That would be silly. It would be like, why have I kept you around all these years as my Biographer?
-- I think you just have, Eleanor. But I'm not sure about the car chases. Explosions we can probably do, and, really, you've made me hungry for a doughnut.
-- I hope it's strawberry frosted. Explosions, and then strawberry frosteds for everybody. (Eleanor smiles.)
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.