Humble Pie

Yesterday I started reading Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato (spoiler alert) and also watched Julia and Julie. Let me just say I’ve been humbled. You may be surprised that I haven’t yet read Cacciato, because it really should be required reading for anyone of my generation, at least anyone who professes affinity to Literature with a capital “L.” And you might be amazed that I would be humbled by a Hollywood movie, because those of us who fancy themselves literary, cool, creative and hip, really need to distain Hollywood movies or be exposed as not being any of the former.

I’m not quite sure why I haven’t read much of O’Brien until recently. Quinn, my youngest daughter, who was blessed with an excellent English teacher, read The Things We Carried in High School and she loved it, and recommended it to me. She’s the one that gave me Cacciato for Christmas this year. The book sucked me  in immediately.

Paul Berlin, whose only goal was to live long enough to establish goals worth living for still longer, stood high in the tower by the sea, the night soft all around him, and wondered not for the first time, about the immense powers of his own imagination.

See, humbling. I’ve wondered about my immense powers of imagination. I was virtually an only child, my brother and sister were teenagers when I was born, and I kept myself company with elaborate fantasies. I learned to draw by illustrating the stories in my head. My sister, home from college, suggested that my parents take me to a shrink, because I spent so much time in conversation with my menagerie of imaginary friends, way past the age when imaginary friends are appropriate. I would go to sleep at night telling myself elaborate, juvenile adventure stories. I was an odd duck.

But I never did anything with it. I think I started my first novel at about nine. It was a historical novel, Minnesota was celebrating it’s centennial, the novel was about Henry Sibley. Of course I only got about three pages written when my attention went elsewhere, but not before I enlisted my teacher in the production of some sort of elaborate historical production. She put me in charge. It fizzled instantly when I became bored with it. To this day I have a hard time finishing projects. So I’m humbled not only by O’Brien’s beautifully woven story within a story and his superb writing, but also by the mere fact that he got it done!

Same with Julie Powell and her blog. She got it done. She set this crazy project for herself and got it done, even though she was working full time, doing the cooking and writing about it. Here I am, not employed with way too much time on my hands, trying to get this blog going and half the time I can’t think of anything to write about and when I do come up with something, it seems so stiff and forced to me. I read what I’ve written and ask myself, didn’t I used to be witty and clever? People told me I was. What happened?

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I’m going to try to analyze the situation and see if I can figure out what’s going on and what to do about it.

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