May 26, 2010

Distracted Again

It's that time of year, again. I'm buried under a mountain of screenplays as first reader for a little screenplay competition of note. And also working on my latest novel project, Endless Vacation. I've got some good stuff in the queue to finish reading, when my time frees up.

In the meantime, here's a bit of flash fiction I wrote about 20 years ago, back when cell phones were a new thing. I call it . . .


The cellular phone gripped tightly, he pulls his BMW to the side of the road as he hears the phone ring on the other end. His breath catches at the familiar, loving voice answering, "It's your nickel." Panic closes a hand around his throat and he can't speak.

"What's the matter, cat got your tongue?" the nasal voice brays through the wires. He tries to swallow but his mouth is too dry. "Hey, Pa, it's for you. It's Marcel Marceau."

"Ma . . . Mom," he blurts out in his panic. "Don't call Pa. It's you I want to talk to. It's me, Beamish!"

"Beamish! Where have you been? We've been keeping your supper warm for you, but after a year-and-a-half the gas bill is getting ridiculous."

"I know, Ma. I meant to call but I was so busy."

"When are you going to get home? Our pyramid act doesn't get as many laughs with only two on the pyramid."

"Look, Ma. I'm in a bit of a hurry. I've got to see a client, but I just wanted to let you know I was O.K."

"What do you mean, a client?"

"Ma, brace yourself. You know I never did like the circus. I mean, it was O.K. for you and Pa, but it just wasn't for me."

"How could you say such a thing after all we did for you? You know Pa was going to pass the family nose on to you."

"Ma, please, don't make this any harder for me. I've got my own life, now." He pauses, afraid to break her heart with the truth. Suddenly, it all comes out in a rush. "Ma, I'm a C.P.A. You know it's what I always wanted. I tried to be a clown, but my heart just wasn't in it. I've got to follow my own dream."

"It'll kill your father."

The digital clock on the dash swims before his eyes as his tears overflow. "Ma, I've got to go. Don't try to call me, please. It'll cost me 1.78 a minute and besides, I'm expecting an important fax. Bye."

May 13, 2010

The Beekeeper's Apprentice ***

*** The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King, 1994

How did I miss this? An excellently written 10-book (and counting) series of extra-canonical Holmes stories starting 16 years ago. The first book is set in Holmes' retirement as a beekeeper in Sussex. If you like Holmes stories, this is a must read. That's two reviews of Holmes stories with a female protagonist in two months. Strange.

May 6, 2010

Walker Percy: A Life **

** Walker Percy: A Life, Patrick Samway, 1997

Back in the 80s I heard Bill Bennett say that Walker Percy was his favorite novelist, so I decided to give him a shot and eventually read all his novels and one non-fiction book.

Percy studied to be a physician, but got TB during his residency and never practiced. He eventually became a novelist, publishing six novels from 1961 to 1987:

  • The Moviegoer (1962 National Book Award winner)
  • The Last Gentleman
  • Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World
  • Lancelot
  • The Second Coming
  • The Thanatos Syndrome

and was a bit of an amateur philosopher, writing such books as:

  • The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with the Other
  • Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

Though I read all his novels, he has never been a favorite of mine. Too much of a braniac, too buried in philosophy, I guess. Maybe if I read them now, 20 years later, I might find them interesting. Maybe not. My To Be Read shelf is much too full to find out now.

Unfortunately, the biography had the same failings, plus a tendency to focus on details that had little interest to me. Did I really need to know which courses he took every semester in medical school and who were his instructors? I didn't think so.

My interest perked up when it turned to writing and publishing, but it was interlarded with long sections on his philosophical pursuits and Catholic interests, so it made for slow going, even more so since it was an elliptical trainer book.

Anybody need a copy of Walker Percy, A Life?

May 3, 2010

Quotes From Stuff I Read - Percy

This topic is usually called Quotes From Stuff I Like, but I wasn't that crazy about this biography, hence the slight tweak in title. I'm pulling this quote out because of the seeming contrast between it and an earlier quote from Gardner I found interesting.

Walker Percy: A Life, an excerpt from a letter:

p. 223. Actually I do not consider myself a novelist but a moralist or a propagandist. My spiritual father is Pascal (and/or Kierkegaard). And if I also kneel before the altar of Lawrence and Joyce and Flaubert, it is not because I wish to do what they did, even if I could. What I realy want to do is to tell people what they must do and what they must believe if tghey want to live. Using every guile and low-handed trick int he book of course . . .

The problem which all but throws me all the time is this: how does a Catholic fiction writer handle the Catholic Faith in his novel? I am not really writing to get your answer because I think I already know it--that you don't worry about it--do what Augustine said: love God and do as you please. But this doesn't help much. (Actually the only reason I can raise the question now is that I can see the glimmerings of an answer.) Dosteovsky knew he answer.

But to show you that I am not imagining the problem: The Moviegoer was almost universally misunderstood. Its most enthusiastic admirers were preciesely those people who misunderstood it worst. It was received as a novel of "despair"--not a novel about despair but as a novel ending in despair. Even though I left broad hints that such was not at all the case.

May 1, 2010

I'm not a musician . . .

I just play one on CD. The CD and EP are finally released. I played bass on both. Other people played stuff, too. This is extremely good stuff. Give it a listen.