For Frank on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

It’s that time of year again.

This was originally published here on 7 December 2012. In what has become an annual tradition, I am re-posting it today in honor of its subject, my buddy Frank.

Intermezzo: Wherein I Offer You a Few Disjointed but Heartfelt Memories of My Dead Friend Frank on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 

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Fiction is About Everything Human*: A Tour of the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, with Musings on the Fantastical Co-Dependency of Writers and Readers

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Originally posted on A Small Press Life:
We think we know them, don’t we? How familiar they are! After all, we’ve spent so much time together. For years, decades, lifetimes even. Minutes add up to days, pages become books, on…

[Intermezzo] Wherein I Offer You a Few Disjointed but Heartfelt Memories of My Dead Friend Frank on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

This was originally published on 7 December 2012. I am re-posting it today in honor of its subject, my buddy Frank.

A Small Press Life

Dear World,

Frank died at 87 1/2 years old. Picture this: When he was a tow-headed little boy, just a toddler, his parents dressed him in short pants and a striped shirt and posed him on the hood of the family Model T, grinning. Feisty. He was named after a prominent ancestor, Benjamin Franklin, and they shared more than a name: both were brilliant, larger-than-life, charismatic. Actually, he came from a long line of characters: a grandfather who died, in his 90s, as the result of a bar fight, a father who was an early aviator. That family bred their men big, bold, and memorable. Frank, my Frank, my friend, came of age during the Great Depression. He had an older brother, equally brilliant; when it came time for Frank to attend college in ’37 or ’38, there was no money left. None. His brother had the degree that Frank…

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[Daily Prompt] Good Tidings: Positively Dickensian

Today’s Daily Prompt-Good Tidings:

Present-day you meets 10-years-ago you for coffee. Share with your younger self the most challenging thing, the most rewarding thing, and the most fun thing they have to look forward to.

This is my contribution!

Positively Dickensian

Two women sit across from each other at a table in a coffee shop. They take their tea the same way: Earl Grey, strong, two sugars. Turbinado, please, stirred clock-wise.

Their conversation goes like this:

2004 Mae: Hey, why are we blonde? We haven’t been blonde since we were seven, and we both know that was way more than ten years ago–yours or mine.

2014 Mae: We’ve met before, right? We’ve been radically altering our hair every few months since we were twelve. Some things don’t change. Wait until you get to 2012. That was a great hair year for us, even if we got sick of the Miley comparisons.

2004: Who is Miley?

2014: Never mind. We’ll know soon enough, and we’ll wish we didn’t.

2004: Oh, okay. Anyhoo, this is kind of weird. Why are we here, again? Do you have big news for me? Because I’m not sure that I want to know. Even if it doesn’t suck.

2014: Good, because I didn’t plan on giving you specifics, anyway.

2004: Well, what if I changed my mind? What if I want to know now?

2014: Too fucking bad. It doesn’t work that way.

2004: Did you bend time and space just to have tea with me? Honestly, that is kind of creepy. Is this some next-level Miss Havisham shit? Future me is so bereft that she finds a way to come back to a point when life was better? Oh, my god. Do I really turn into Miss Havisham? Seriously, is my future that pitiful?

2014: I’m not wearing a tattered wedding dress, am I? So, no. I forgot how kooky we can be.

2004: Wait. Wait! Do I-do we-become…normal? I’d rather be Miss Havisham.

2014: Haha, no! We’re amusing, too!

2004: Hey, don’t take credit for that line! I said it, so I am the amusing one. Continue reading

Fiction is About Everything Human*: A Tour of the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, with Musings on the Fantastical Co-Dependency of Writers and Readers

We think we know them, don’t we? How familiar they are! After all, we’ve spent so much time together. For years, decades, lifetimes even. Minutes add up to days, pages become books, on and on, until their words roll off our tongues as if they belong to us. They are family whose photographs are never pasted into the album.

***

 In the peculiar way that words are comforting, books often feel like home. It’s a tortured comparison, to be sure, but is there a reader alive who hasn’t wanted to crawl into the world of a novel or short story and nest there for eternity? Who hasn’t felt a mesmeric connection to certain authors? What a grand feeling! How light and bold and generous the world seems after you’ve converged with a writer’s words or philosophy! Suddenly, anything is possible. Your wildest hopes and dreams and ambitions are mere inches in a mile, able to be crossed with ease.

Eventually, the world intrudes. Reality gestures. Obligations assert themselves, bossier than before. You settle back into life, real life, limiting life. Things are dirtier here. When you’re lucky enough to have found a new literary friend, though, some of their lessons stick. Radical perspectives don’t disappear when you close the books from which they’ve sprung. Questions abound. They nag at you, they make you think, they open doors.

Even the most straightforward stories, by their mere existence, invite interpretation. No one reads a piece of fiction exactly the way the next person does. Our emotions and experiences instinctively try to skew outcomes to our individual ways of seeing. We like to extend this to the lives of our favourite authors. We like to have things in common with them. We like to recognize a bit of ourselves in their actions and choices. We like, we like, we like….In our enthusiasm it is easy to forget that the relationship between writer and reader is the result of a fantastical co-dependency, a continuously shifting performance put on by strangers seeking mutual satisfaction. This makes it hard to locate the line between reality and projection, our desires and the writer’s personal truth.

***

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”-Mary Flannery O’Connor

My Relationship with Mary Flannery O’Connor (Did Not Get Off to a Good Start):

The first time I tried reading a story by Mary Flannery O’Connor, I put it down after a few pages. I knew she wasn’t for me. Maybe she was grand for someone else, sure, but we weren’t going to work out. Why waste the effort? Fortunately, she was more determined than I was. She wouldn’t let go. There was a nagging in the back of my mind telling me to give it another shot. A few days later, I restarted the story. Nope. Same thing: reading this lady’s fiction was headache-inducing. What was the point of continuing if I hated it so much? I wanted to fling the book across the living room, not read through another 500+ pages.
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