A Short Story Audience with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hanks & Cameron

Mar 27, 2018 by

A Short Story Audience with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hanks & Cameron

What I am writing is one of the sanest things I’ve ever come to know in my life. Each evening of late, I’ve had private, short story audience with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Hanks, and Julia Cameron.

Realizing that Hem., aka Papa, committed suicide in July 1961, and that Fitzgerald died of a heart attack at age 44 in 1940, that Tom Hanks is a Hollywood A-lister and I am not, and Julia Cameron, although she is on Twitter, has never liked one of my tweets mentioning my progress in any of her five books, I understand it sounds crazy to say that I find myself in close association with each of these famed writers, but please, let me explain.

Storied Audience

Each night of late I have a special audience with authors Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Hanks and Julia Cameron.

As noted last week, I read A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s narrative that includes his time with the Fitzgeralds in Paris and their return to the States. The edition I have includes previously unreleased materials.

I’m now reading the Hemingway Library edition of The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. For each story published, there are versions with edited portions that seemed to have little to do with the story itself. But when read with the story, these missing sections cast another meaning upon the intent.

Hemingway believed a story should be like an iceberg—mostly underwater and unseen by the reader. This has changed my perception of writing.

Yesterday’s Mr. Peabody and the Robins, is evidence of my efforts to be more laconic in wording. Initially the piece stretched to 1,200 words. It posted at 975. As I moved the story from Word to WordPress, I could hear Clive Owen from the movie Hemingway and Gellhorn offering a toast.

When I finish the Hemingway story each night, I open the 796-page volume of F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. This is the world of writing where when he was alive, Scott made more money than he ever did from his novels–particularly The Great Gatsby.

While Hemingway’s stories are more to the meaning of the word “short,” Fitzgerald’s pack a punch at their end, leaving a reader startled—truer to the ending of Mr. Peabody and the Robins.

Fitzgerald endings seem to say, “Boom. The story has ended, and you know it. Now think about what you have read because it is going to stick with you for a spell.”

When I finish with Fitzgerald I set his book on top of Hem’s and pull out Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type. All of these stories in some way include a typewriter. In the documentary, California Typewriter, Hanks says if he could only keep one of his 255 typewriters, he’d keep his Smith-Corona Silent, the same machine I used to type the draft for this post. Regardless, I read Hanks’ story, then set his book down and pick up Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write.

Cameron divided her book up, as she did with her Artist’s Way trilogy, in easy-to-read essays. Each is about four pages followed with a page or two of exercises, all healthy for any writer or anyone wishing to write themselves a better person.

Conclusions

So, Donny, you’ve taken us a long way for the setup, what happens after you finish reading Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hanks, and Cameron each night? How long does that take? What do you get from such?

Does Tom Hanks really come to your house? Do you put two sheets of paper in the Smith-Corona Silent so as not to damage the platen and leave the room and hear typing when you’re not in there?

Do Hemingway and Fitzgerald write from the grave while Hanks channels from a movie set?

And what about Cameron? Is she in Taos or in New York writing from her picture window? Traveling and doing Artist’s Way courses? Out walking?

She encouraged you to get your typewriter, is she linked to the same network as you? How does this all work? Please, tell us. Let us know before this spills into the National Enquirer, the Globe, or the National Examiner. She still has you reading those does she? Weren’t you just supposed to read those for one exercise? Is this really the sort of writing she meant to come from reading that stuff?

Now, now, I’ll have to tell you more tomorrow. I have some other writing to do today. I’m still working on my Narrative Time Line from Cameron’s book The Vein of Gold.

Tonight’s reading:

Hemingway’s “Fifty Grand.”
Fitzgerald’s “May Day.”
Hanks’ “The Past is Important to Us.”
Cameron’s “Credibility.”

Tomorrow, the conversation about all four pieces and how the cosmos aligned all four of them to make sense, magically.

 

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Mr. Peabody and the Robins–A Short Story

Mar 26, 2018 by

Mr. Peabody and the Robins

Franklin Peabody sat studying the scene outside the window of his library dreading the onslaught of spring. Three robins stared watching his every move. Or so he thought. One robin protected her clutch. The nest never sat unguarded if Franklin Peabody was near to touch. When he went outside, robins followed. Or so he thought.

As the light of day waned, Penelope Peabody, the bride of Mr. P., entered with exciting news. She said she too was on the nest, due herself a visit from the Stork.

This news shocked Mr. P., who since a child himself vowed never to have one of his own.

“How can this be Mrs. P?” he demanded. “Are you certain the father is me?”

Mr. Peabody and the Robins, a short story by Donald J. Claxton. 

Franklin Peabody’s accusation crushed the good woman.

“How could you ask such a question of me? You know there is no place in my heart or our bed for anyone but you,” said she.

“I fear bringing a child into this wicked world,” he confided in her. “Evil lurks outside these very panes; a wretchedness for which there is no cure.”

Mrs. Peabody cried and trembled over the surprising reaction of her husband.

And so, she flew upstairs to quarters above the dismal library of Mr. P. where he perched after dinner, sipped a drink or two, and hid between the pages of the latest best seller. All the while robins flocked to observe him through the library’s windows. Above him they could see Mrs. P. crying a bird bath of tears and they chirped among themselves.

“The time has come,” they said in their birdish ways.

“Robbed my mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, mother he did of eggs in her nest one spring it’s true, now that he has one of his own coming, we shall avenge as sure as an egg is blue,” crowed the mother at rest in the nest.

“That poor woman will worry herself sick and the baby, too,” said another. “But shouldn’t we leave this kind of thing to the ravens of Poe my dear brother?”

“Nonsense!” squawked the third in a passive voice. “Tradition is set, and revenge must be dealt. We will not be happy until an equal measure of loss is felt.”

Mrs. P. made ready for the special day as the robins flocked outside in a special way, and Mr. P. thought of something special to say.

 

Days before the arrival of the Peabody child, Franklin exited the residence did he, with a bag of bread and walked to a bench in the park to sit under an oak tree.

The birds issued their warnings to each other, but going to the park they shrieked, “he’s returning to the scene of the crime!”

“Franklin Peabody, we know what you did that day as a kid. The murder of our ancestors can never be hid’,” said a venerable robin.

“I was a boy, curious at heart. I meant no harm I promise you that. I picked up those eggs to carry them home and before I knew what, in my hand they went splat.”

This stirred the ire of the birds.

“Nature is best left alone in the woods not in the palms of some greedy young boy,” cried an old timer.

“I know that now,” exclaimed Mr. Franklin P. “but how was I to know that then?”

“Your teacher on the field trip earlier in the day said these very words, ‘Our place is not to touch but to admire the beauty and power of Nature,’ did she not?” demanded the venerable robin.

“She did, she did indeed, I must confess,” whimpered Mr. P. “I am guilty as charged, but I do not know how to make amends for this colossal mess.”

“Fair is fair in Nature, Mr. P,” cried a round robin.

Mr. P. sat thinking for a moment as though he’d brought his study with him.

“You are angry over something that happened generations ago. Isn’t your sin as damnable as mine?”

“He is trying to trick us,” charged a younger bird. “What happened long ago hurts me every day! Make him pay for what he did.”

An older bird chirped to the younger.

“Oh, be quiet. Neither of us were even born then.”

Mr. P continued.

“Let this new generation be born and our mistakes forgiven.”

The older robin moved closer to Mr. P.

“’Tis tiring to keep angry over something one did not experience firsthand.”

“I have suffered for my sin and longed to make amends,” Mr. Peabody said. “When my child comes, the child shall have the name Robin.”

The birds fell silent.

“I see how you at my windows, worrying if your nests are safe,” Mr. Peabody said. “I will set out seed and build bird houses, so you are worry-free from children, cats, and other predators.”

“That way you will give life to more than the three we lost,” a momma robin said.

“I cannot replace the three whose lives I stole, but perhaps more will have a greater chance to live as I make amends,” Mr. P. said.

The birds chirped among themselves and accepted his offer.

He then opened the bag of crumbs and shared the bread until consumed.

 

Upon returning home, Franklin discovered Mrs. P. had flown the coup. Gone was her bag kept readied for a trip to the hospital. When Mr. P. reported to the delivery ward as arranged, they’d not heard from her. Nor any others. Nor had her parents. Or so he thought. Mr. Peabody was so distraught, he returned to his study and since he had no child of his own, he did not name one Robin. He did not set out seed or make bird feeders. The birds kept watch on his study and didn’t know what happened to Mrs. P. either.

Or so he thought.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

A Moveable Feast

Mar 16, 2018 by

A Moveable Feast

In my writing and reading, I am studying Earnest Hemingway. That led to my reading of A Moveable Feast, published in 1964 after he had died. The version I have includes a foreword by his son, Patrick, and an introduction by his grandson, Sean. There are also many newly released sketches about his son Jack and first wife, Hadley.

Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.”

The chapters about F. Scott Fitzgerald and the subsequent descriptions including his wife, Zelda Sayre, formerly of Montgomery, Alabama add a new level of color to the first celebrities of the Jazz Age. (Check out the short film I did last summer on Zelda as a ghost in Montgomery–going back home one night and visiting her old haunts in modern Montgomery.)

Hemingway paints a picture of Zelda that is anything but flattering. He all but says that Zelda ruined Scott’s writing career out of jealousy. Fitzgerald is portrayed in firsthand stories that show why he only produced a limited number of books in his career.

For instance, when they first met, Scott invited Hemingway to take a train with him from Paris to Lyon to retrieve a car Scott and Zelda had left broken down. Hem arrived at the train, Scott did not. Hem boarded, Scott did not. Hem arrived in Lyon, Scott arrived an hour later. Hem booked a room and wired Zelda where he was staying, but the message never got to Scott, who found Hem the next morning. Then there was the matter of where the two would eat breakfast. Zelda apparently hated cars with tops and so their’s had none and it was raining that day. Scott and Hem made it an hour before they had to stop in the rain. Once they stopped for the day, Scott said he felt like he was catching his death of cold. Hem kept insisting that he had no temperature and that he was fine. Scott insisted he was dying. He insisted Hem find a thermometer. The pharmacy was closed. Hem found a waiter who located an odd thermometer which he told Scott, “You’re lucky it’s not a rectal thermometer.” No temp, but that didn’t satisfy Scott. But after some doing, he then went downstairs to call Zelda and talked to her for an hour. This, he assured Hemingway was the first night the two had spent apart since they’d been married. The way Hem told it, it was a gross case of co-dependency before anyone used the term. The whole bit makes one wonder how stable Scott was himself. Then to see how Hemingway portrays the constant fighting between Scott and Zelda is eye-opening.

The first season TV series on Amazon shows they have a contentious relationship but Hemingway paints a much harsher picture. At one point they are arguing with their chauffer from France about whether or not they can put oil in their car, or whether or not their driveway is their’s or not.

But there are a few segments of the book where Hemingway writes about writing. “On Writing in The First Person,” Hemingway says that if a writer does a good enough job, “you make the person who is reading … believe that the thing has happened to him too.” He goes on to say that if one can achieve this it will “become part of the reader’s experience and a part of his memory.”

The observations and sketches about living in Paris in the early 1920s are colorful and enjoyable. He shares what it was like to live poor and to work hard at honing his craft. He was in love with Hadley and focused, intent on becoming a serious writer and loving living in what he felt was the best place in the world to be a writer at the time.

The chapters about Gertrude Stein and her calling Hemingway’s “the lost generation” are informative, as well as his summation that every generation is a little lost.

I enjoyed the read and will likely go back through this one a couple more times in my studies. There are Easter eggs hidden here among his feast of words.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Neil Diamond – Done Too Soon

Mar 14, 2018 by

Neil Diamond – Done Too Soon

Neil Diamond canceled a planned world tour this year. He has Parkinson’s and in the words of one of his songs, is done too soon. The disease is so bad he can’t keep traveling. Honestly, I wasn’t surfing for tickets, but this is sad news. For the past 46-47 years of my life, Neil’s tunes have enriched the musical fabric of my life.

I first remember Neil Diamond when we moved to Derby, Kansas near McConnell AFB in late spring 1972. When Dad returned from his second tour in Nam, this one as a member of the elite USAF helicopter group, the Green Hornets, he brought with him a Sansui receiver, Teac reel-to-reel, and a Pioneer turntable that fed some high powered Sansui speakers.

One of the albums that filled two bedroom home on S. Post Oak was Neil Diamond’s Taproot Manuscript. Dad played it every Saturday morning as we waited for a place in base housing. To this day I can hum every note of side two of the album–from “Childsong” all the way to the frogs fading at the end–twenty minutes later.

Shilo

When I got older, I found the jazzed up version of “Shilo” on Neil Diamond’s 12 Greatest Hits album. There’s no telling how many times I’ve played and replayed this song. From grades four through… I won’t say how old, I played air drums along with him and the orchestra.

Something about the high-hat and the drums rolling across the set has always made me as happy as Neil singing about his imaginary childhood friend. There are a couple other versions of the song but they don’t come close to the one on this album.

Now I know some of my friends reading this will mock me and make fun of Neil. That’s okay. They’re not getting sung in seventh inning stretches either. He is. Bum bum bum…. (“Sweet Caroline”)

“Do It …” the 45 single sounded better than any album or CD ever has.

The Monkeys have Neil to thank for “I’m A Believer.” It was Number One on BillBoard Magazine for weeks.

Neil had tons of hits. “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “I am… I Said,” “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon,” and on and on….

But now I wonder if he’s playing one self-fulfilling song in his head more often than the others.

Done Too Soon

I’ve been mindful of this song since dad brought home Taproot Manuscript, but never really understood it until I grew older. Neil goes through a litany of famous people and then remarks that all of them have something in common with all of us.

In 1970, he wrote himself a warning in “Done too Soon.” I hope he heeded it and enjoyed every minute along the way.

“And each one there
Has one thing shared
They have sweated beneath the same sun
Looked up in wonder at the same moon
And wept when it was all done
For being done too soon
For being done too soon.”

We all race through our lives seldom taking the time to enjoy each day as we live it. That was the message here. Not to do that. And even if we do, Neil postulated as a younger man, that it would still happen, that our lives are but a wisp of time and then we are gone, or we are old and our days of youth are swept away before we know it.

Neil Diamond, thank you for the music and the memories. They’ve been valuable in my lifetime.

Heed Neil’s words as you live out your days. Live every day as if your last. And enjoy every single moment as much as you may because one day you’re going to look back and wonder where the days went and remark that it was all done too soon.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

The Hazel Wood

Mar 12, 2018 by

The Hazel Wood

Last week I read Melissa Albert’s debut book “The Hazel Wood,” a young adult novel 355 pages strong. Not something I would normally read, but I’m trying to better understand what tops the best seller lists and this has been atop the Costco list recently. I wanted to know why.

The is a modern-day fairy tale but dark and dreary. The first half of the book I found rather intoxicating. Night one I consumed 87 pages. The second night I reached page 167. The third page 264. I did not read the fourth night. On the fifth eve I reached page 320. On the sixth I had 35 pages to read. It took seven nights to finish.

It was what a writer would call the Supreme Ordeal, where all hope seems lost for the main character, where things seemed to fall apart for me. After finishing I saw some of the comments on Goodreads and that seems to be the consensus, too. Though I thought most of the low ratings on Goodreads read as bratty.

Melissa Albert’s command of the English language is strong. She uses word pictures to help her readers imagine what she wants them to see. Even in a first-person novel where the reader is inside the head of the main character, Alice, the entire book. That’s not an easy thing to do.

She did a good job of foreshadowing and setting up and the following through later.

Like I said, I enjoyed the setup in the first half of the book. The latter half got to be a little strange for me. Like I said, this is not something I would typically read, but I am glad I did. I gave the book a four-star rating on Goodreads. These people who hated it, don’t appreciate the art of it, and this book is a work of art.

I don’t believe that any book must have a happily ever after ending. This one has something of a HEA ending, but without providing a spoiler, maybe not in the way the bratty Goodreads commenters would like. If an author writes a book that doesn’t end the way readers think it should, the author has done his/her job. Whether that’s good for the business-side of writing is another matter. What’s true to the story first should always be the first consideration. The answer isn’t always easy, I’m sure.

Congratulations to Melissa Albert. Writing this story, no doubt, was not easy. There are lots of twists and turns to keep her up many a night as she composed this novel. I hope she keeps writing despite the few Negative Nellies on Goodreads. illegitimi non carborundum is all I have to say to that.

(You can check out my list of 101 books I’m reading and recommend by following the link here. I’m at number 61 with this book as of December 2016. I’m using these books to improve my craft. Some of them are about writing better, some of them are fantastic reads. I invite you to check out the list. If you know of something I should read, please tell me about it.)

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

I Can’t Tell You — A Father’s Poem to a Daughter

Mar 9, 2018 by

I Can’t Tell You — A Father’s Poem to a Daughter

This is a father’s poem to a daughter. Years ago, circa 1998, maybe early 1999, before her twin sisters were born, I wrote this poem for Chandler. I found it in the garage the other day, the pages worn and stained the way a poem written twenty years ago should be. Here it is in digital form so that won’t ever happen again.

This may be my poem to Chandler, but I dare say it’s probably a message most fathers have about their little girls. I could apply it to Reagan and Haley as well and have. Looking back, I think we’ve done just about all of the things I mention in the poem–though I never had to sample mud pies!

They are now little women, but I forever hold them in my heart like you see Chandler in the picture to the right. That’s her in my lap where she and the twins will always be in spirit.

I Can’t Tell You

I can’t tell you how much I love you,
Or how much I like to hold you.
I can’t tell you how happy you make me feel inside
How you make my heart pound so hard with pride.

I can’t tell you how much I love to watch you grow,
To learn to walk, to run, to catch and throw.
I can’t tell you how much I’d like you to play piano
To learn to act, or dance or sing soprano.

I can’t tell you how much I like to kiss you
Or measure when we’re apart how much I miss you.
I can’t tell you how I want you to be so smart
To do well in science, English and event art.

I can’t tell you how much I want you to know,
The feel of grass, of fallen leaves and snow.
I can’t tell you how much I want to walk with you
To climb big rocks, to talk, to jump and sing songs, too.

I can’t tell you how much I want to learn with you,
About computers, cooking, baby dolls, and mud pies, too.
I can’t tell you all I see when you’re at rest
And think about my limits you sometimes test.

I can’t tell you how much I love to see you read
And to reach out to me when you feel in need.
I can’t tell you how excited I get every day
When you come to me and say, “Daddy, let’s play.”

I can’t tell you how much I love to brush your hair
To tickle, and tumble and to tell you I care.
I can’t tell you how much it hurts to see you fall,
Or to not be there in the day when I know you call.

I can’t tell you about all I want you to know,
But for now, I’ll work on “Red light stop. On green you go.”
I can’t tell you I’ll always be at your side,
One day you’ll grow up and become a bride.

I can tell you it will be hard to walk you down that aisle,
But I promise you now, I’ll be wearing a smile.
I can tell you I’ll be thinking of so many other days then,
How much I’d like to go back and do it all again.

And I can tell you right now that makes me sad,
So today, I’ll just concentrate on being your Dad.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Pin It on Pinterest