Tuesday, December 11, 2007


"Class, I would like you to write a theme." - the teacher from "A Christmas Story".

I used to feel really stupid at my writer's group. People would be talking all their English Literature degree having talk about omniscient vs first person present or some such stuff. They go on and on about Great American Writers and how this or that was reminiscent of this style or that style. And because this is The South, there was the required homage to Faulkner.

The only strong feeling I'd ever had about Faulkner was that he needed a lesson in where to place a period.

I am an intuitive writer. I can't tell you what a participle is or why I chose to use first person past tense. Hell, half my first practice novel wandered from point of view to point of view because I didn't know any better. But I do have well over 40 years of a book habit that would make most people cringe. I can tell you if something sounds right, but I can't tell you why it is right.

So one day, not long after watching a re-run of Saturday Night Fever, I caught a glimpse of the scene in Working Girls where what's-her-name (Melanie Griffith?) is having a fight with her back home boyfriend, it hit me. The theme of total separation from the familiar.

It also happens to be the theme of my novel. That sometimes, in order to achieve your goal, your dream, you have to completely separate yourself from family, friends, hometown, everything. You have to risk the alienation and scorn of those who you might need the most. You have to go out into the unknown alone, not knowing if you will succeed and also knowing that you might not be able to go back.

Jason can give you all the psycho-social aspects of the tendency of humans in a social circle to want to maintain uniformity and protect itself from change. I don't know all the theories and fancy words, I just know how it feels.

And it feels scary. And then I wonder if that is what keeps people trapped in the cycles of poverty and underemployment and illiteracy. How far up do you have to climb? How few skills are you embarking on this odyssey with? Do you know anyone on the other side who could guide you?

Can you imagine?

Thor sez: Can you imagine getting up out of that chair and feeding me?

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