Friday, August 29, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 41 - LAUGHTER

There was a horse carriage in an old barn behind the old house, with high grass all around it. The carriage was covered with dust and cobwebs. I had no idea why we did not have a horse. The ice man had one. And so did the man who sharpened knives.

We had a black car that looked like most cars. Once someone visited in a small green car that had a fold-out rumble seat in back – the sort of place where I hoped I would one day get to sit while speeding along in the open air.

The house was very dark. In our room where my twin brother Peter and I had
adjoining cribs, the walls had cardboard cut-out figures of Jack Sprat and his wife who would eat no fat and of Jack the Giant Killer and of Little Bo Peep. Even when placed in our cribs Peter and I were usually fighting – except once when we joined forces to make what they called BMs in our crib and throw the results against the wall.

I was moved to another room, adjoining the room with the cut-out figures. It was because we fought so much. Once Peter hit me with what in memory is an iron pipe. Some clear substance that hardened like glass was put on the wound by a doctor. Once I was hit in the groin so hard my little balls swelled and turned almost black.

The far end of the dark room I was moved to was at the front of the house, which was really exciting. Though shades were always drawn and you had to get close to the windows to peek out.

The New Rochelle trolley cars rolled along outside, bells sometimes ringing – the wires above making singing sounds. And at a certain time a Good Humor truck would come by and it would stop if our nurse Josephine hung a special sign with the letter “G” in a window.

Josephine was very dark and very thin and very old and had very few teeth. She showed us how we could get castor oil down if we held our noses. She had once been the nurse for Dad and his brother and sister. She spoke in a language no one in the house could understand.

At the far end of the room, the end with shaded windows facing the street and trolley line, there was a tall wardrobe with a tall mirror. Through the mirror there were many people always talking, sometimes laughing – people who knew me. At a time in Atlantic City with our grandparents I was surprised and pleased when it turned out that all these people of mine – people no one else could see – were along.

Mother would often get angry. You could tell when it would happen because she wore was a certain gray dress on her angry days. Sometimes she would read aloud about the elephants Babar and Celeste and the monkey Zephyr. She would read it in French, she said, but tell it to us in English. At the end of the Zephyr book there was picture of a mermaid with bare nipples that made me feel good.

Mother had her gray dress, but no one was so angry as Dad. He came home with the parts of a brand-new lawn mower in a big box. He started to put the parts together but nothing would fit. He waved is arms and spat out harsh words and his face was bright red.

We had a thin black dog named Herbert. He lay in thresholds in different parts of the house and you were told to be very careful because Herbert was an unhappy dog who liked to bite people.

Inside the room I’d been moved to – the room with the mirror people and the sounds of the trolley – it always seemed to be night. Once I saw an owl fly into the room – an owl with ties to the people in the mirror. He landed on the top of a half-open door and stared an me, and I found it comforting.

Once there was laughter in the room. A very pretty, very smooth woman with bright white teeth, large dark but bright eyes, gold and silver bracelets, jolly curly hair – sat in front of the wardrobe laughing and laughing. Mother and Dad had said she was here because she’d been thrown out of her school. That’s what I remember them saying, “thrown out.” She was Dad’s sister. I’d never seen her. Now I was smiling and laughing too – and so were Mother and Dad – on that one day when there seemed to be light not just in the mirror but in the room itself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 40 - CONVERGENCE

The points of convergence. We had both come out of twisted parts of that smallest of worlds, not a full world, just a tiny subculture – the Social Register, boarding schools, Anglo envy, boys playing girls’ parts in Gilbert & Sullivan, debutante parties, hardly any Catholics, and almost no Jews at all – our respective twisted parts of a subculture in which everything was supposed to be forever properly in it place, and all people in theirs. Neither of us had considered staying in it past childhood. I remembered the family uproar when when I was ten and questioned why hotels in our part of New Hampshire would not allow Jews.

And in our separate lives we had both moved around the world in ways others had not. Asia. Africa. It was a reason we had first connected, something that separated us from people around us. The foreign reason added to the Waspdom reason. And all tied up with the most intense reason, which was that we were both working full time, almost, to find out what had happened in our different but now converging deep pasts.

The man who climbed into the little girls’ beds, a man with one of those names with a Roman numeral after it, had a certain celebrity based on what a forebear had done. One way I knew of that man was that he had been a joke – the founder’s aging and pretentious boozed up son – at a publications place where I had once briefly worked as a hack writer. But more than that, I knew he was the son of one of my late grandmother’s closest friends.

One day, on the spur of the moment, we drove from Lake Champlain right over to the frontier, and crossed the New Hampshire line. We cut down to White River Junction, then over to Hanover, and then up route 5 on the Vermont side and route 10 on the new Hampshire side, crossing from one to the other several times on bridges over the placid, haunting Connecticut River with its green banks and water that reflected the sky. Then at Woodsville away from the river and into the mountains. This was the old, pre-interstate route, going north alternating between the two sides of the river, which I had seen in childhood from the back seat of our family Plymouth in the years we went by road rather than by old, single track steam railway up to the White Mountains.

I had started staying well away from New Hampshire by the time I was in my twenties, and anyway by then there had been summers in Europe. Staying well away, most of the time anyway, started 30 years before this time with Gillian, 30 years until this past summer when – hot on the trail of what had happened – I had made those two trips over from Vermont, and I had already come so very close to the story – knowing what had to have happened beneath the proper veneers in those formal houses, knowing it for certain even though the pictures in my mind were still hazy. Though increasingly less hazy.

Now I drove with Gillian over these same roads in the landscape of my past that I had retraced in the just-passed summer. We did not stop in to see anyone, though my childhood friend and early crush, still a friend so many years later, the gorgeous Terri, would have been in White Wings. I had seen her on one of those summer trips across the border. Now we did not stop. And we also drove past the looming house called the Farm House, which looked down on us from a rise between White Pines and the dark, octagon-shaped House on the Hill. “The Farm House” was not so much a description as a reference point for people who lived in houses with names. It was possible my twin brother, the responsible twin who got the property, would be in residence, but we did not check to see. And although we drove another ten miles to the stark market and mill town of Littleton, where in the old days the family had gone to shop, we drove straight past the house of my aunt, who had been my favorite aunt and who was looked upon as the wanton rebel in her generation. Aunt Alice had retreated to Littleton some years back, taking her daughter Lauryn out of the Lysée and the ballet school, a relocation made necessary because one of her sons would have wound up in prison if they had not fled, the charges in New York were so great – kidnapping, doing things with a sawed off shotgun. (And every one in the family said, then, as they were saying about events taking place right now, how strange it was, something like this in a family such as ours.)

Lauryn, my favorite. I might have gone to see her but she had long since moved to Minnesota in one of her several marriages. I knew Aunt Alice, was exasperated, near fury base on jealousy, that Lauryn still looked so appealing, was still so sought after by men. That has been the mother’s role, a reason I had liked Aunt Alice, for that was part of her being a fellow black sheep. I was thinking suddenly about Aunt Alice’s smooth skin. I was thinking too that in recent years it had been hard to be in the same room with her.

As this time, this tryst, the meeting of minds with Gillian, was going on, the time of the Aqua Mustang, I would call my answering machine down in Chelsea every few days.

Now, on the very day we had passed her house in Littleton without stopping, there was Lauryn’s mother, Aunt Alice, leaving message after message. Message after message from the past, from someone I hardly ever saw anymore. It was urgent that I call her, she kept saying. But that was the past, and I did not call and did not plan to call.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 39 - LOVE?

The past coming back, with Gillian as a witness, and with her past too – darkness and betrayal coming into focus at the very time that summer air, and billowing trees, and the sight of fields and flowers, mountains and clear streams, and the occasional deer or raccoon or porcupine or turtle – and the scent of grass and leaf and earth lake water – are all part of something like rejoicing – things I might have lost or never known this way again. In this my most unusual year, 1986.

This autumn in the north country, this light I, and I think Gillian too, felt was leading us into something new, these scenes in this light, though, always in opposition to, or set off in sharp relief by, what was there from the past. Gillian talking about a demon lover, a Brooklynite with mother troubles who made her into something very small in New Delhi, where she tried to please him by bursting the pimples on his back and by spreading flowers on the bed he shared with another lover. Gillian talking about how one of the famous people her mother fucked used to regularly molest her and her sister – crawl right into their childhood beds.

And sometimes I was sent into myself by the British intonations in her speech – taken on during a time she was at Cambridge – and getting stronger as she talked about that time, and about a book she wrote, and about how she was a central figure at the glorious late sixties love fest around Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain, and about other past lovers, and about the famous literary men who bedded her mother, and how when her mother wasn’t fucking she was masturbating, so much so that Gillian did not realize for a long time, she said, that not all apartments smelled like theirs. All this, molesters and the rest in a British accent, which of course put me in mind of the fake British accents of summer people in White Mountains. But this was different. This talk in those tones that was also about an orchard cabin in India, and about these groups we went to in the city that seemed so full of hope. And at the center of the stories this lovely, still, girl with the long blonde hair. A desirable girl/woman in the sun. Here a British accent was okay.

Each day we racked up what seemed like more memories that I thought would be around forever. We had a herd of cows that always approached us, coming right up to our car, on a dirt road before the spot on Lake Champlain where we had this peculiar old lake house. In Middlebury in the heart of WASP land we took a tour of a claustrophobic house full of hooked rugs and bric-a-brac and horse-hair-stuffed furniture on slanting floors – as uncomfortable as the furniture in our smaller living room when I was a child in Connecticut. A main feature was a lifelike family cat that had been skinned and stuffed in the 19th century. We kept crossing the border into Canada – from woods to the north, or from a lake town that felt strangely like an ocean town – and one day at a small, seedy roadside eatery that had wonderful café au lait, a bossy woman told us in French that we were leaking gas. We got back to the house, replenishing gas each time we saw the level was down, and the next morning at a garage in Vergennes we found we needed a new gas tank, which would take several days, and she said that was just fine with her. And I was thinking seriously about being in love.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 38 - HIGHER AND HIGHER

High time for the sex scene, I think, as I drive the aqua Mustang north from Lake Champlain and head to what they call Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, which is dangerously close to the New Hampshire border – danger Gillian understands, for it is past if separate horrors in Waspdom that brought us close at the start and she is with me now in this car I had been driving alone, rarely leaving – afraid to leave? – while on the hunt. In the summer I made two trips over from Vermont, and saw people from the past, including one who knew what had happened in ways I had only sensed. Neither of us by now has any illusions about the past. Where we had met was a place where illusions could not stand, and anger was a virtue, and where it became nearly impossible to shock.

Her hand is on my knee as I drive and I am less in the car than still inside visual images of her in bed and bath this morning at the borrowed lake house that, translated into Wasp, is a camp. The occasional neighbors we see, still here from the summer, are dressed from head to toe by L.L. Bean – the feet always in those strange boots in which the foot part is rubber, not leather – the invention of which, the Bean catalogs, with their dowdy models, praise as a milestone in history.

And we are so far from world adventures in this carefully shabby and insubstantial house, in a musty little bedroom that has a cuckoo clock, or in an old bathtub that has legs. “Don’t look right at me now,” she said. “I don’t want you to see me getting fat.” But I look, and she’s so alluring to me, pink from the bath, not my idea of getting fat. And I did not have my eyes shut earlier, when there was wetness before the bath and she blew on me gently.

A sex scene, and in the car it is mixed up with a million other scenes from past and present, for this too is part of the hunt for what happened way back then, the hunt still on, whether I knew it or not – the hunt for what happened back then and also for where and who I am now in this time of roaming the places of the past – now that I admit I am mainly a visual person – not a writer – scenes outside the car and inside too and at every time period since visual images first began to be indelible, which was before I was two years old – these pictures in my head as real as what I see inside and outside the car I am driving – in this new time of stepping into places without clear precedents or reference e points despite all the roaming I had done. And these images are now accompanied by songs, this car with its tape deck – songs, many of which I had never heard before, as important seeming now as the visual images – catching up on what had happened while I had been away. Not knowing I needed songs – certainly never singing – catching up now on what I’d missed, though it's filtering through others, Judy Collins doing Suzanne, for I had never heard of Leonard Cohen, who had arrived when I in the Balkans – or it is a fairly cornball Anglo-accented baritone named Roger Whittaker doing the very non-Anglo songs of Cat Stevens, who had arrived when I was south of the Congo.

We head into the Northeast Kingdom – this part of Vermont not far from the White Mountains but a place our family and friends never went. It is a rival place, as bare bones as New Hampshire. We go via the last real outpost before the Northeast Kingdom, St. Johnsbury, Vermont, hardly bare bones, built on hills including a hill that is a village green, a place that seems to represent the upside of 19th century New England, a place of culture while a few miles away New Hampshire people were merely trying to live by their wits. It is new to me. Our people did their big weekly shopping on the New Hampshire side in a mill town called Littleton, which has no shade trees, much less a green, much less anything like St. Johnsbury’s Athenaeum, its own art museum – not far from a brick boarding school campus and close to its own museum of natural history, which is full of its own fossils and Indian artifacts and impaled bugs. And after St. Johnsbury, the only store is a very small, crowded one that sells everything, from cheap warm coats and kerosene lamps to canned hash – survival things. I ask about Lake Willoughby, which I know is here somewhere, and am told it does not freeze until February if it ever goes – this black lake, surrounded by rock formations that look like the work of Druids on Cocaine. This might be the gates of hell.

And going higher and higher, leaving the lake behind and below us, seeing what is here and in the distance as dry leaves blow away – higher and higher till the hills and mountains, which we see as we stand outside the car and turn 360 degrees – hills and mountains into infinity in all directions, and I say this is the top of the world – another reason for one of those hugs that may still mean nothing but I am unguarded enough to think that now, post nakedness and wetness, they do. “It’s the top of the world” is what I say, and what I shall write in the guest book at the dowdy lake house, the camp, I have borrowed, and again I will not be sure what are my words and what are someone else’s, some alien appearing from the past to filter words through me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 37 - UP FROM THE CITY

On the drive up I miss the turn onto the Northway. Close on the seat beside me Gillian is fiddling, prettily, with little items – a shamrock key chain, an eye glass repair kit, a tiny game with a little ball you try to maneuver into a bull’s-eye hole – things she got from a rest stop vending machine – the sort of things that fascinate when you return from very non-American places, which she did recently from a few years in the Tibetan refugee part of India.

We go by mistake so far in the wrong direction on the New York Thruway that it feels like we are in the Midwest, and we both find this funny, and I remember being in family cars and how a wrong turn would in all the years ahead be held against you. She quotes her late father being cheerful about what he called, when a wrong turn was made, “grand turismo,” and this makes me a little nervous, for I am not sure that if he were alive he would not now be closer to my age than Gillian was. And I thought of what she had just told me about how when she was barely at the start of puberty her father and her near-famous celebrity-fucker mother would have their children strip on a cold Maine beach and then both parents would egg Gillian on to suck off her little brother.

The context was our talking about Wasp summer places. “I didn’t have a magic kingdom, like you did in New Hampshire,” she said. "We had places but we were renters.”

This talk about our backgrounds, and now her sexually convoluted upbringing. Razor-edge horrible, but I could relate. But oh God I like where I am right now, the crisp piney air flowing through the aqua Mustang, and beside me a pretty blond who seems both girl and woman, and we talk and talk about many other matters, and we inch closer to each other, and it feels as if this is something not so much like all the other sex in adulthood but something more like from dreams.

We turn around at one of those places on the Thruway conveniently marked with a no U-turn sign. Back in the right direction, we switch after Albany and Troy to Rt. 7 and other old roads, and we stop whenever we feel like it. In sunset, beneath a willow, she stands and raises her arms over her head, pulling her long hair up and letting it fall, stretching, the body’s line imprinted on her sweater, and then her arms are around me and she is pulling herself up – though again this may not mean much since in the circles where we met there was so much expected and supposedly chaste hugging.

It is early autumn now. The reason I am no longer alone in the car is that when I was just down in the city, in one of our chats by the African fetish figures she sells from a sheet spread out on the sidewalk near the Modern Art Museum, I told her it was almost my birthday. And I spoke of the north and my summer adventures, and we decided we should drive up together to look at the fall foliage which in a week would be at peak in Vermont. New Hampshire too.

At one point at dusk we are on shale rock at a dark pond in the woods, where small fish leap up for insects, creating expanding circles on the mostly still water – a place of instant nostalgia though neither of us has been here before. We begin a kid’s competition to see whose flat stone will skip the farthest across the water’s surface.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 36 - DRIVING AWAY II

So I drive off and out to country roads listening to Judy Collins singing about how this girl named Suzanne feeds me tea and oranges that come all the way from China, and she's wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters. And the sun pours down like honey...

I drive off in Vermont, the anti-New Hampshire, suddenly elated with the thought, as Judy Collins begins to sing, that I have broken a barrier by recognizing at last how important music is to me, who has lived in foreign, as well as domestic, war zones, but has never sung. As important as the paintings I have just this year rediscovered, as the Keats and Wordsworth I am reading again for the first time in decades. And now, though what I seek in what some would call mid-life – these family horrors I am tracking down – though what I seek is filled with peril, it is not like that time alone in Darfur or that time alone in a small Cessna straying into the dread line with Syria, or that time in Kalimantan when ritual cannibalism had returned – it is only now looking into my family past that I am clear about being in an area of peril. And even so I am not jarred by Judy Collins’ nearly too nice sweetness. She takes you by the hand and leads you to the river, and you know that she will trust you for you've touched her perfect body with your mind. This sentimental part will not go away.

I do get distracted, though I know this search I am on is not for simulated puppy love or relationship or fucking. It is a matter of life and death to me to return to past places to find out why those people of the past have had lives that led to razor edge horror. This is my mission this summer. I have to know. But I cannot put out of my mind thoughts of ease and orgasm with teasing women. Perhaps because I feel so good without cigarettes, just Vermont air. Sex in this air. Thoughts and images of the real Julia, the real Bonnie, the real Anne Marie. And also Suzanne of the song that is playing in my car, Suzanne, who I note is dressed in feathers.

Remembering or fantasizing with surges of sexuality in Vermont where the fields are smooth and lush green and the cows are well fed, never the skinny New Hampshire mongrel cows who stand on rocks and yellowing dead grass. I drive past Vermont village greens – New Hampshire does not go in much for village greens. And on the Vermont greens there are guitar playing kids of the sort not smiled upon in new Hampshire.

And though I drift and glide and fantasize, Vermont does not fool me either. The ski slope gashes on Killington are as violent as the avalanche gashes in the Franconia Range. And I know what lurks behind clever landscaping – things never hidden in New Hampshire with its lack of zoning and it big advertising signs on even small roads. But here, state ordered landscaping to hide the shoddy condos and the trailer parks. And I stop in nice-nice Middlebury and it feels as suffocating to me as anything I can remember. Also, I see and hear summer colony ladies coming out of Middlebury antique stores talking through their noses in carefully modulated and very fake British tones. Those accents that were so common in the restricted summer communities across the border in New Hampshire – the starting point for all those people, young and old, who are dying now without their own voices. The place where I started too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 35 - GET ME OUT!

What am doing wandering around in the all too connected 1938, 1952, 1970 and 1986 versions of the White Mountains, where nothing ever changes? How can I get out? I had gotten out years ago and now I am in there in my writing as if I have entered a maze and have no sure way to retrace my steps.

Once in the summer of 1955 when I was 20 and a virtual virgin, free for the summer anyway of that pretentious college I was in, I began frequenting this mid-level brothel in Rome that, though only three blocks off the Via Veneto, charged the equivalent in overvalued dollars of 58 cents. I was happily obsessing over a not so young but very smooth girl who had these swim-suit like costumes. In the reception room she didn’t need to hustle. She just stood there for a few moments in a certain way, and I was thinking how fine it was to be here conquering shyness in an international whorehouse.

How fine, yet two blocks closer to the Veneto was the Eden Hotel, where that summer I sometimes slept in a suite taken my distinguished grandmother, who like me was taking a summer off from the White Mountains, and she was traveling happily with my younger Cousin Robin, her favorite grandson, who went to Winchester and lived in London except for summers in the White Mountains, and was the only one in the family whose English accent had to do with actually growing up mostly in England.

I don’t want to write anything more about the White Mountains. And that summer of 1986, when everything was so different. I don’t want to write over and over of how before I headed north that summer on the hunt for what had happened, visual art was taking me to places that the logic of words obscured, and I don’t want to write of visiting places from the past to see what I would find, as in walking on the Upper East Side and feeling I was being smothered by powdered old women in fur coats, or entering the Modern and being whisked back to the time of Motherwell and Kline and Pollack and deKooning, and my girlfriend Vannie, who was an action painter herself and who looked just right in black leotards – nor about how Hopper paintings at the Art Institute drew me into Beat era Chicago, where I spent my weekends away from Indianapolis where when I was 21 and a wire service reporter I was dealing with Klan people posing as ordinary Republican government leaders. Such dealings being something I knew how to fake. And anyway I was on my way to Cuba where it seemed a nonfiction revolution was about to start. And I don’t want to write about those recurring nightmares that would not go away.

Such writing right now is no more satisfying than doing more bragging stories about feats in Borneo and Angola and Laos and Egypt.

I want to get out. I had those happy years when I was not writing, working with color and line and form instead. And then after I came back to writing I got into that maze again. How can I get out?

“By writing,” I would say while attempting to put on a wise face if someone else should ask me about traps of the past. My words would be very helpful to someone else. I could tell them what was their best material.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 34 - DRIVING AWAY I

A piece I have written for Penthouse, about a foreign war zone where not long ago my own death seemed likely, covers me financially for the summer, even though I have pretty much stopped writing in this time my life is changing. I was able to buy the happy car I drive off in, I was told, because the young woman who had owned it shared it with a telephone lineman she loved, and she could not bear to keep it after he was killed by lightning.

I am staying in Rutland with my old friend Peter Cooper, who came here long ago via the city from the same Connecticut commuter town where my parents settled. In northern New England now, on the hunt now, I am close to other old places of my growing up – my boarding school in the New Hampshire lake country, my maybe privileged, maybe starched, but surely happy summers in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Peter Cooper and I became hard-drinking friends in early days in New York City, where I would land for a year or two at a time between foreign escapades. Now Peter writes books and runs a Vermont state alcoholism clinic, and lives with his second wife – who works for General Electric and plays a church piano. They are on a road that comes quickly to a dead end where, if you walk a few feet over grass, you are on a crowded strip complete with a Cumberland Farms, a Burger King, a Timberland outlet and also, right at the point where you step over the grass patch, an Esso station. Rutland is not the precious part of Vermont.

At the Esso station, parked by the pay phone, was this gleaming old aqua Mustang that I drive now. The FOR SALE sign, just above the chrome horse figure, said $1,200. Only 40,000 miles and with a working tape deck. Such a right vehicle for the time travel I contemplate. Like a man with a real income, I pulled a checkbook out of my back pocket and wrote a check that I was pretty certain was good for the twelve-hundred.

The garage owner who sold me the car is a rough-hewn, confident New Englander, who might be Chuck Vintner at another Esso station, that one in Franconia, New Hampshire, where I did my first driving 37 years before this in a green family Plymouth. Vintner surreptitiously put a governor on the engine when I ignored his warnings about speeding. Driving with Elysse always sitting so close we were touching. Her tanned legs making it hard to keep my eye on the road.

It is all these years later now in this Mustang in Vermont, and I am younger than I have been at any time since Elysse days. It may have to do with exhilaration and relief, and the apparent end to depression, now that I am on the hunt for why so many of my cousins from those summer houses in New Hampshire come to such horrible ends. As I drive beside fast moving water that rushes over smooth rocks, I look to the Vermont Green Mountains, which have tidy farm fields high up where in New Hampshire, the place of perfect summers, there would be granite. And I think yet again of how so many of the people who were young in that time are dead or dying now. And I have just made an exit from a seven-year marriage in which my wife clearly meant it the last time she said she’s cut off my cock while I slept, something not unthinkable, she said, in the culture she came from – which I am starting to think is not so different from this family culture I am on the track of now.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Going Public

Ongoing efforts by frightened people to tame writing make it urgent to get a writer’s own version of reality out of the writer’s notebook and into the world.

Just as reading a work before a group can enhance the work itself and everything that follows, so too does seeing the work in print or in a full performance. This is something seasoned authors know.

But the work will be enhanced only if the production process goes forward in the same spirit in which the work is created. Many an editor or writing teacher or book or play/screenplay “doctor” has ruined works of literature by taming them, making them smaller in spirit and more conventional, urging the authors to be very, very careful to offend no one, protecting the real life models of less than perfect people who come to life in the authors’ stories.

It is essential that the writer refuse to let frightened people water down the writer’s creations.

The Point of Publishing

It is rare that visual artists do not want their work seen. Rare that musicians and composers do not want to be heard. Rarer still that writers do not want their work made public in performance or in books. Until recently the crucial book part has been increasingly harder to accomplish – because of the costs of book production and because after corporate takeovers conventional publishers are simply less interested in any literature that entails taking a risk.

But the situation is changing, like night changes into day. This is because of the increasingly more obvious need for new outlets, and more immediately because of technological changes that have made the actual production of an actual book affordable the way it never was in the past.

Affordable if you can avoid the crooks. Large scale con operations, claiming to be “publishers,” send out salesmen who claim to be editors and charge fees in the knowledge that many writers are so anxious to get into print that they will suspend disbelief and hand over their money for unneeded services. Book people know all about this, and so it should always be remembered that nothing is more likely to keep a book out of bookstores than to have the name of one of these fake publishers on its spine.

At the same time, self-publishing, which used to be considered a little too minor to count, has become so respectable as to be found now even in such places as the Frankfurt Book Fair and "Indie" publishing is light years ahead of what used to be called “vanity” publishing.

Our Role in Ways to Publish

The important thing is that if you can find a good editor and a good designer you can do some crucial things that the very best publishers did in the past. And you do not have to worry about editorial or business people who are timid or incompetent.

More and more people we have been working with in Authentic Writing™ are in the going-public phase of their personal experience writing, whether as performed works or books. We can bring first rate designers to work with the editors, who are ourselves, two authors and editors who did this professionally in the dark, pre-workshop past. And we are not alone now in following the Indie way – the way so many of the best CDs and movies, as well as books, are now produced.

The publication by Tinker Street Press in June of my AUTHENTIC WRITING, A Memoir on Creating Memoir was far more satisfying to me than anything I did with big name publishers. And this is not the only new way to go. My wife and co-director of Authentic Writing™, Marta Szabo, carried out initial publication on the Internet of her important memoir The Guru Looked Good and received far more direct and impassioned attention than is usual even with the resources of major publishers.

Since the start of Authentic Writing™ in 1993 we have had considerable success in working with people to bring their most important scenes and stories to life, and then to fruition. This seems to me the wave of our future. I intend in the years ahead, as the workshops continue, to concentrate ever more on working one-on-one with people who are ready to take their work to the public through books or that profound form of publishing that is performance.