THE KID'S GOT MY EYES
The Monterey County Herald,
September 26, 2004
As I launch my first novel into the
marketplace, I'm reminded of what English composer,
Vaughan Williams, had to say when he startled the music
world with his Fourth Symphony: "I don't know if I
like it, but it is what I meant."
Like Vaughan Williams, I didnt set out to compose a
crowd pleaser. My literary symphony," once
conceived, took on a life of its own. I poured my entire
self into it, laboring longer on this project than I'd
ever labored on anything before. Of its own accord, the
plot out-maneuvered the shallows of the short form into
which I'd originally cast it, and wandered into the
deeper, uncharted waters of epic storytelling where this
myopic wordsmith might otherwise have feared to tread.
I kept the story compact. I plotted it with urgency,
keeping the climax at bay for as long as possible, but
never out of range of the narrative's headlights. I
squished out the air, packed every moment with emotional
energy, and provided enough peaks and payoffs (I hope) to
keep the impatient reader from falling asleep, or tossing
the book into a fish tank.
Still, a part of me frets because my work does not
represent what I imagine the world wants to see. Why
should that matter? Winning unanimous acclaim was never
the motivating impulse behind this unsolicited endeavor.
Unless one is already a hot commodity, publishing is
hardly a get-rich enterprise. Not that there is any
monetary reward, short of breaking the World Bank, that
could possibly compensate me for the time, the sweat, and
the mental gymnastics that went into it. Much as a writer
longs for approval, there are times when he must consider
his own appetites first. Because if what he produces
doesn't ring true for him, it's not going to ring true
for anyone else.
What can an unproven author hope to achieve in an
industry where success is normally measured in sales?
What possesses him to labor in solitude for months on
end, unveiling his most private visions before people he
will never see, and whose reactions he may never know?
Call it an act of love, wherein a creator desires above
all else to transcend that solitude by sharing it with
othersto connect with those readers, however few
they may be, who discover something special in his work,
something personal and unique, that they didnt
realize they were looking for.
On the one hand, Im pleased with my creation. It
has my eyes. It has my soul. It obeys its own logic, its
own set of laws. Its true to itself. It contains,
within the parameters I have established for it, a sense
of inevitability. Its everything I raised it to be.
It has exceeded my wildest dreams. Like any proud father,
this author loves his brain-child because hes NOT
like every other kid on the block.
That is, until he sends him off to school for the first
time. Although he knows its foolish of him to
second-guess his creation, he finds himself comparing it
to the other kids on the bus. He notices the blemishes
and the facial ticks and thinks: If only my child were
more comely, less quirky; I wish Id dressed him
better. He knows that whoever sees the son has, in
effect, seen the father. Perhaps, what makes this author
most uncomfortable is not the quality of his work, but
the realization that he has made a crucial piece of
himself fully known.
don't know if I like it, but it is what I
the kid's got my eyes. I just wish sometimes, when I see
them, that they were a different color.
Of course, I never say these things to his face. Instead,
I tell him to stand tall. Don't let the bullies
intimidate you. Go out there and be everything you were
meant to be. Do your damndest to make your dad proud.
And then I whack
him on the bottom and send him on his way.