A New Direction for My Novel
After three years of drafting, editing, and revising, I am embarked on the final preparations of my novel, previously titled: FOR WANT OF SCRIPTURE.
Writing novels is easy. Editing stories into good novels is notoriously difficult.
I sat down and wrote the first sentences of this story the morning of Sunday, July 9, 2017. I was on fire. I set the goal of a chapter every two weeks. Forty-four weeks later I had twelve chapters — having missed my deadline as many times as I met it. It was over 110 thousand words. …
Oh, heady days!
Late imperial, early feudal,
rancor in the air like poison smoke.
We breathe in fitful gasps
and coughs, inhale the future,
waste the exhale in shouts of spleen.
Grinning, cheap movie villains,
we play to the camera,
our manicured and bloody hands
midwife the suicide of a people.
All gunpowder and lipstick,
every finger tap and eyeball twitch
recorded, measured, bought, sold,
stolen and raped, we laugh at pain
for a discount at the bar. …
I am roiled tonight with questions.
What inexorable force impresses choice
beyond all good and evil?
Why does the mantle of responsibility,
of power over many lives,
transfer no wisdom to the pathfinder for a billion?
Is this what we want,
we sons and daughters of the revolution?
We scoff at promises long ago sealed
and break them with the snap of a twig.
What did Dwight and John tell us?
What truly is the trinity of my people?
The president, the merchant and the priest?
Be still a moment — listen
for whispers from ages of man;
turn away — no profit grows down this path. …
One day in a time and place not far from here, a man named Oben went to market to buy bread for his family. He left his wife and nearly grown son behind and walked the few miles between his tiny farm and the nearby village, Burada. It was a clear, crisp, early fall day, and the man took note of the bright sunshine, the cool breeze, the delightful chirping of the birds and the leaves just starting to turn from their summer green to yellow and gold. The man smiled as he walked.
Reaching the outskirts of the village, he heard a commotion, voices sounding harsh and shrill. As he entered the village square, he saw a crowd standing near the well, surrounding a man who stood on the rim of the fountain, talking loudly and angrily, waving his arms and brandishing his fists as he spoke. Oben could still not make out the words, but it was obvious the man was agitating the crowd, for they growled and yelled as the man would finish a sentence and raise his fist. Some of the crowd raised their fists as well and growled even more loudly and angrily than others. Oben could tell that the people in the crowd were not angry with the man. They were angry because of him. …
The first, best thing about John Soares’ CAMP FOR FREE is that it makes you want to get out there and enjoy the sheer beauty of Wild America.
As the author tells us, the US has over 440 million acres of public lands, and most of it is open to public camping free of charge. These are expansive, wild, breathtaking areas that are accessible to everyone. The best areas require a little work to access, but the reward is worth the effort. …
Here are three phrases I hate as some of the most damnable and destructive lies in our cultural lexicon:
“All’s fair in love and war.”
“It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”
“War is the continuation of politics by other means.”
The first two are anonymous, of course, so I can’t name and shame the author. I’ll leave criticisms of them for another essay, except to say that I’ve never heard them employed except as excuses for bad behavior.
The third, however, comes from the writings of a man long hailed as one of the great military theorists of all time, the 19th century Prussian general Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz. I name him not to shame him; from what little I’ve read, his dialectics of war as the very human manifestation of a “trinity” — violent emotion, chance and rational calculation — seems one of the better analyses of the scourge of our race ever published. …
“Rest assured that literary education is no good without character.”
The First Signpost:
SLIPPERY WHEN WET
The Kid’s Vision:
I have seen halls of marble
breathing like athletes,
filled with people talking,
talking and listening.
Rooms fill, minds open easily
as old books, asking more questions
than mouths can speak —
while bearded professors (like myself)
answer with a quiet air
of humble pantheism.
Where the only rule is TRY
and the only goal is truth.
The Professional’s Warning:
“The squeaky wheel gets replaced”
was my father’s favorite saying.
He wrote it on the toilet stall
at the foundry that killed him for
Watching hot-heads get bounced
and ass-kissers get desks,
finally dying on the floor
where he started. …
The first to arrive and the last to leave
etch loneliness into the mahogany bar,
gutter their cigarettes in half empty glasses.
Self-promises of moderation are sluiced into sewage,
while conversation is clouded by ethanol courage.
Paper bills pass hands to buy a new name,
a new history — born of the hunger for company.
But past excesses are the brand, the number of the beast.
So they drink,
laugh at thrice-told jokes, turn from faces
living in the parallel world of bar-back mirrors,
their own reflections scoffing at forced laughter.
How they might click their tongues in disgust,
were they older, or happier. …
All the essays I’ve published on Medium