Quoting Pat Conroy

I’ve been reading more Pat Conroy. I continue to be impressed with his ability to tell the story and to talk about his life and the lives of others entwined with his. Mostly, I treasure and envy his awesome craft of writing, his vocabulary, and how smooth it flows as I read. I have no right to judge the writing of anyone, much less a man with such a gift.

What I feel as I read his words is not so much judging (as in “love it”). It is about me and my experiences, feelings, and thoughts about a man who was born less than one year before I was; who grew up when I did, but under very different circumstances, and who seems to have lived a life that I oddly, but resonantly, relate to in many twisted and indirect ways. Autobiographical fiction; strangely, I get it.

Except for graphics, the following quotes taken from his writings are my notes. Any error is mine. This was me stopping the flow of my reading to write down Pat’s words. Cuz, picture it, me saying “wow” while reading and then grabbing my notebook.

I have been using Public Library e-books lately, so I cannot highlight as with paper books or on my Kindle app. Yet, writing them down in my notebook may be better for increased mental indelibility and the likelihood of my sharing.

I grouped these by category and added my comments. I realize that context is lost by such grab-and-go’s, but I like them. The photos and memes are not my work, except to click “copy as.”

About writing, reading, and writers

“Fear is the major cargo that American writers must stow away when the writing life calls them into its carefully chosen ranks.” (Agree. I do. I must.)

“…nothing is more natural in his (Tolstoy) world than the mysterious and necessary attraction of men and women…their attraction for each other and impending marriage seems part of the design of the Universe, as right as the stars that make up the belt of Orion.” (Pat read War and Peace three times.)

“Teach me how to die.” (This is one of those phrases when I think, “I wonder what he meant?” Context!)

“I want to always be writing the book I was born to write.” (Exactly.)

“But I’m speaking of all the yesterdays that will not come again.” (Old guys say cool shit like that.)

“…that I get to live in the Old New York Book Shop on the night of a book party.” (This was Pat’s idea of heaven after he died. That book store is no longer there, but it was a big deal to him. Do you have a place like that? A memory so profound and pleasurable that it would do for a permanent state in an afterlife?)

“Nothing is more difficult to overcome than a childhood of privilege….” (Or abusive parents.)

“My childhood taught me everything I needed to know about the dangers of love….” (I intend to use this when I write more on the paradox of love.)

“We got some things right.” (About writing, the publishing writing world, and himself.)

Regarding Norman Berg, Pat’s friend and book rep., “He was a hard man who dismissed fools without conscience or regret…. He was an easy man to dismiss, and a hard one to love.”

“Know everything. Feel everything. That’s your job as a writer.” (Said Norman Berg to Pat, quoted by Pat.)

“The tribe is contentious, the breed dangerous.” (Regards writers and why he claimed to have few friends among them. Pat Conroy had many friends, and many of them were writers. I don’t really know enough writers to have an opinion, but the ones I know, while seemingly neither contentious or dangerous; most are unapologetically opinionated. Norm Berg’s job description?)

“The world of writers was a snake hole, a circle of hell – a rat’s nest and a whirlpool and a dilemma – not just a world.” (Pat was opinionated. I wonder how he felt about French writers? See is time in Paris, below.)

Pat’s youth and college days

“Two pillars of authority, patriarchal influences shaped my childhood. Dad and the Catholic Church. Punishment of anarchy. Contempt for anyone different.” (Mine, too.)

“There was an amazingly limitless capacity for ruthlessness at the heart of the family of man.” (Regards all of life, but learned from the plebe system. This is from The Lords of Discipline.)

“What will this make of me? A man, or a monster?” (Regards surviving his freshman year in college)

“A prize that exacted an awesome tithe of spirit from those who loved it.” (The Lords of Discipline)

“It was sublimation and surrender to the efficacy of denial.” (Pat had something specific in mind, but I can apply this to so many times in my life.)

“The history we are born into always seems natural when we are young, but it seems misshapen and grotesque as the winter years come upon us.” (I have had similar thoughts, but my experiences were a little less profound.)

New words for me

Three of many words I learned and liked reading Conroy: décolletage, oleaginous, and unctuous. (I am smiling and could go on and on and…)

His time in Paris

“Parisians and polar icecaps have a lot in common except that polar icecaps are warmer to strangers.”

“France is the only country in the world where friendliness is one of the seven deadly sins.”

(To be fair, Pat loved his time in France and cherished the memories. But why deny the French acting so “frenchly”?)

 

In our reading life, we must look both ways.
In writing, mind the damn gaps.

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Signs Yer in Texas

I’m on thin ice here. Texas is different and the natives (Texans) not only insist on it, Texas Pride demands it with few boundaries. It was also 86-cents a 6-pack beer when I was in college. I married a Texas girl, all my kids were born here, and they all read my dribble.

Before traveling, people asked if we or our family lived anywhere near Houston and the flooding from hurricane Harvey. We are about 150 miles west of Houston, so family was on the outer bands of the storm—no damage or flooding, just rain.

Things from my morning walk…

Barbed wire (called “bob-war” in Tex-speak) may be useful for controlling cows, but it’s annoying and dangerous to humans. Putting up such fencing when it’s unnecessary is foolish, but they do it. And they run that miserable prison shit-wire right into the river. WTF is the point of that? There is not a farm, farm animal, ranch, or cow within miles. This is an in-town resort with people and kids. The state motto is “Friendship,” but nuthin’s friendly about that wire. And don’t give me that “good fences-good neighbors” crap. Pointed wire bits that can rip your skin off is not good, neighborly, or friendly.

Texas highways have the best signs. Some are funny. Like up by Moran, a little dry-spot of a town of four or five hundred hardy souls. “Moran next four exits.” It is not on an interstate, there are no exits, and you drive through town. If ya blink, ya miss it. Sarcasm and I love it. Better yet, “Moran Yacht Club Next Right.” There is no yacht club, no water or lake, just cactus and tumbleweed, residents with a sense of humor, and one joker who works for the highway department.

So, as I entered Cypress Bend Park on my walk this morning, I got a chuckle out of the signs at the entrance.

Don’t you dare pop that top until your ass is off our grass. The Guadalupe is kinda green now, but I bet it’s a high yellow color during the summer months.

Know what state you are in. And in this one, fear the sun. And for god’s sake, smile as you fry.

WTF is a “volume drinking device?” Do we need signs to remind us not to jump to our death? Lock yer cooler, the fish are thirsty.

It is not only the heat that is brutal in Texas. The norm for rain is the accompaniment of loud thunder and deadly lightning. Do the peeps here really need signs reminding them to use common sense? Seriously?

If you aren’t concealed (gun) carry licensed in Texas, you must be a namby-pamby liberal Yankee. Thus, if you visit the state capitol, you must pass through the metal detector. That is not required for the 80% who work there and are so-licensed. We know you’re carrying, so just go ahead.

Open carry is also common virtually everywhere in Texas and a gun rack in your pickup is standard, if not required, equipment.

But listen here, Cowboy. Do not open that beer until you’re “feet wet.” And above all, do not dare to open-carry your own bar-b-que grill into this here park. That would be dangerous. Comprehendo, Sundance? (Said the sheriff with a big smile.)

See? Thin ice. I will hear about this.

Look both ways for an easy way through those barb wire fences.
Mind the gaps and don’t jump off the bridges sober.

Along the Guadalupe

After putting this on Facebook, I decided that it may make a nice blog read. We are spending the month of October in Texas. Western Washington State, where we currently live, and south-central Texas are vastly different in climate, geography, and culture. Even the Mexican food here is different (called Tex-Mex). We are “from” Texas. Wife is native-born and I’m a damn-Yankee (she always said it’s one word) transplant. We are staying near the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels. What follows documents my last adventure walking her banks.

I added bug spray to our Wally World shopping list. On my walk this morning, I realized that “humid” is not the same everywhere. Here, it’s oppressive and crushingly heavy, even at 75 degrees. I fed the Texas mosquitos. I plan to heed the signs I’ve seen warning of the illnesses caused by fighting the “battle of the bite.” I wonder how my blood mixed with BP meds and Plavix made the skeeters feel. They were picking on me cuz my thin blood is an easy suck and swallow.

Near a local veteran’s place, I passed a fowl pair, one of whom gave me ample verbal warning. I was not plagued by attack from the VFW ducks cuz after I told them that I had friends who graduated from Oregon U., they let me pass.

It rained nicely during my walk and I enjoyed it. The rain was pleasant for here; no down-pouring buckets or lightening, which is the norm. I got wet; not soaked by the much-appreciated morning gift from the “friendship” state. I was not okay with the hungry insects.

As I was walking along with the wet grass and bushes brushing against my bare legs, I saw the sign: “Warning: Poison Ivy.” Oh, great; right? Maybe the ivy’s growth was restricted to that one little patch? Or, maybe the rain washed the poison off. I saw two men walking toward me. They both had fishing rods and hunting a good spot to wet their lines. I pointed to the sign and said, “Now they tell me.” They had a good laugh.

The last time I fished, I had much more hair and many fewer wrinkles. Long ago, I decided it was too much trouble and way too much of nothing else.

 

Apparently, trees have numbers for names in these parts. I met Mr. 2292 and his family (the Cupressaceaes) on my walk. He didn’t tell me why he is called a “bald cypress” (Taxodium Distichium) when he is clearly not bald. But that name sounds like a character in a dystopian book, right? And they say Latin is a dead language—ppffftt! (Bald is cuz they lose their leaves in winter; something no self-respecting Distichium does.)

I did not see Chris and Mona Lisa, who were inspired to write their names on one of the cypress to advertise their love. I hope that works out for all concerned, but I’m betting the tree outlasts the love.

The “no diving” sign at the pool makes the reason very clear. Ouch! I think I still liked fishing the last time I dove into a swimming pool.

I saw this quote to share with you: “Grief is love with nowhere to go.”

Have a good day.

Look both ways. Once you see the poison ivy sign, it may be too late.
Mind the gaps, the water’s cold.

What Writing Rut?

I get it.

It’s not me. It’s you. Okay, it’s me!

I am feeling uninspired now, and have for months. I think I whined on this before. Is there such a thing as very uninspired? I have no idea if I can place a degree on it, like on a scale from one-to-ten. I know I’m okay, not panicked. I have ideas and I work on them. But I think other things (forces?) in my non-writing life are short-circuiting my writing and the transmissions from mind to this keyboard. Or maybe my mind is a void. I just can’t seem to complete what I want to do.

I can start things, but then I mentally bog down. I worked on several poems, some of which I have been picking at for weeks. After about an hour of working on one or more in my uninspired condition, I feel like the poems and I are both considerably worse off. I would get more done if I’d watched TV instead of playing writer, editor, or poet. The strange part is that no one else seems to think anything is wrong with me or my craft. Is what I feel something normal? Wife says it’s writer’s block. Could it be because the creative climb is too steep, and I’m using this dryness as an excuse? I continue to write something every day. Oh, poor pitiful me. My WordPress account is rusting.

I think about reading – but what? Books on writing or poetry? I’m honestly not in the mood for that either. I prefer to listen to music, but I haven’t been able to listen to music while I read or write in years. Music inspires me. Reading also inspires. Multi-tasking confuses me.

It’s been raining, normally that would help. I’m not tired. I wish I could write and finish what I start. But, I am writing. I want something inspirational. Maybe a few good lines in the poems, or perhaps I could drum up a coherent essay. How about writing a self-help blog on what to do when you are uninspired? Elizabeth Gilbert and my poet friend, Sue, would tell me that I am not being open to inspiration from the cosmos. I disagree. Okay, maybe they’re right. Assuming they are, then what? Hello, Cosmos of Inspiration, I am open here. Can we do a few lines? Not those kinds of lines – poetry. Prose, I suppose.

I read a couple of those ‘ta-da!’ blogs with all the answers before writing this. Seriously? Seven things to do when you feel uninspired. What a joke! How many ways can people come up with to say, “don’t be uninspired.” Get busy, they say. Fuck you, I say. Seriously. I’m not saying no to the inspirational meta-verse. If I could get busy (pause and sigh). Well, don’t they think I tried that? Ya know what I would like to do? I think I should drink. Get drunk and write, what I call “doing a Hemmingway.” I may not get anything constructive done, but I won’t care. Maybe a wee dab of doobie?

It’s Sunday. Okay, it was. I don’t know what day it is. But I would like to go to a bar, sit and sip a fine pint, and listen to some moron bitch and complain about some totally unimportant and irrelevant shit. I have no idea why that might help improve my writing dilemma. But something in me feels like listening to some neggy-Ned, so I can roll my eyes and feel superior to him (Nelly, if it be a her). I could say, “You think that’s bad? I can’t even finish a damn little poem!” Maybe I’d have a little crappy cryin’ in my beer C&W session, or some fine R&R music playing in the background. It would not inspire me and the only thing I would feel better about would be the contents of my stomach and a wee tingle in my semi-functional brain.

The thing is, I’m not bored. I am really quite fine (but, MS Word is trying to piss me off by underlining that and telling me that really and quite are unnecessary words, and it’s working. But I ain’t changing shit.). Here’s my plan.

I will go see what wife has on the flat screen. I will watch for a while, then excuse myself and head out for some nearby watering trough. I will sit there and pretend to write, or maybe read, but I’ll be people watching and eavesdropping. If you walk in and some old fart has a notepad out and is sort of eyeballing everyone, while sipping a tall, dark stout (beer with the appearance of coffee, the taste of chocolate, and a head like a coke), and jamming with some oldie tunes, just wave. If you even nod and pout a shallow grin, you’ll make my pages. Congrats. Now where’s me keys?

Look both ways on good days and bad.
Mind the gaps, but don’t let them live in your head.

 

This Paradox of Love – A book

I’m reading The Paradox of Love by Pascal Bruckner (translated by Steven Rendall). I’m not finished, but I want to post a few quotes from the book. It is interesting, well written, and the translation is solid. I’m reading it as research for writing more about the paradox of love as a topic.

Bruckner’s take on how we got from where our ancestors were to where we are with male-female relationships is informative. I should have known. His commentary on, and experience with, the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s is interesting (Bruckner is French), but not one I shared.

“Sexual liberation became the most common way of getting in contact with the extraordinary; every morning we reinvented our lives….”

For those of us who may recall some of that time, he asks, “What put an end to this euphoria?” He explains, “We knew only one season in life: eternal youth. Life played a terrible trick on us: we got old.”

He has much more to say; quotes from the book follow.

Regarding the concept of free love, he asks, “How can love, which attaches, be compatible with freedom, which separates?”

Here’s more. These are taken from the introduction:

“Our freedom in love was won in battle at a price that remains to be determined. (Someday the “black book” of the 1960s will have to be written.) Freedom does not release us from responsibilities but instead increases them…It resolves problems less than it multiplies paradoxes…This burden explains in part why contemporary romances are so hard.”

“A paradoxical result: we now ask everything from love; we ask too much of it; we ask that it ravish, ravage, and redeem us…Christianity’s invention of the God of love has made the virtue of love the cardinal value of life…By liberating itself, it reveals itself for what it is, in its flashes of brilliance and in its pettiness: noble and base at the same time.”

Bruckner quotes from Les aventures de Télémaque, by Fénelon, an early 18th Century French novel, “love alone is more to be feared than all shipwrecks.” I like the quote. However, in the world today, it’s blatantly false.

The paradox I promote is that today we would rather suffer the potential pains of love, than to not experience love. And, we seem to keep going back for more. This may seem crazy, but it’s the eventual norm.

I like the chapter title: “Salvation through Orgasm.” I am quoting way out of context here, but along with equating the Aurora Borealis as nothing other than a cosmic orgasm, he says this “…like grace for the Calvinists, the orgasm is the narrow gate to redemption.” You always knew that, right?

Try this: “Depending on whether or not you have an orgasm, the Earth will slip into harmony or into discord: Fourier had already drawn an analogy between human copulation and that of the planets, and saw in the Milky Way an immense deposit of luminous semen. If humans made love more enthusiastically, they would give birth to a multitude of galaxies that would illuminate the planet a giorno [roughly, everywhere] and would solve the lighting problem at small expense.”

I shall never see the night sky in quite the same way again.

A few more like that before moving on: “An erection is an insurrection, the body in emotional turmoil…desire is profoundly moral…Coitus is simultaneously a rebellion against society and the culmination of human nature.”

Ok, enough blushing stuff. Bruckner is right in that it would be an obvious dodge to discuss love between men and woman with no reference to sex. Blame Pascal or the translator, I am only quoting. And cherry-picking.

Here is something that I consider more useful: “…but there comes a time when we have to take the risk of a relationship to the other that will upset our expectations and free us from the dreary conversation with ourselves. Independence is not the last word for people—that is what we are told by the love that has a blind faith in the other: that is why the worst misfortune on earth is the death of the few people who are dear to us and without whom life no longer has meaning or savor.”

And this, “If there is a modern dream (old as the hills but widely shared today), it consists entirely in the twofold aspiration: to enjoy symbiosis with the other while at the same time remaining master of one’s own life.” A dream indeed. Don’t we give up something of ourselves in every relationship?

I agree with, “Love is an experience we don’t want to forego, on the condition that it not deprive us of any other experience.” People in relationships with extremely controlling others might have something to say about this. I would argue that some of us are often willing to be deprived to a degree, perhaps even to submit to a more dominant and demanding love – even a forbidden love.

Regarding the conflict of the old ways of love with new: “Whether we like it or not, to fall in love is to slip back into an ancient, magical humus, to revive childhood fears, excessive hopes, and a mixture of servitude and cruelty. Without this permanence, how could we still read The Princess of Cleves, Liaisons of dangereuses, The Sufferings of Young Werther, Wuthering Heights, Cousin Bette, Madame Bovary, or In Search of Lost Time?

And I like, “Moderns are stupefied to find that love is not always lovable, that it does not coincide with justice or equality, that it is a feudal, antidemocratic passion.”

That much is from only the Introduction and Chapter One. There is much more. I’m over my personal word limit. So, I’ll close with a quote from the beginning of Chapter 4, “The Noble Challenge of Marriage for Love.”

This Bruckner quoted from the website Viedemer-de.fr, 2008:

Today, I received two text messages from my girlfriend. The first to tell me that it was all over, the second to tell me that she had sent the message to the wrong address.

As you look both ways in life, mind the gaps.
But love! Crash and burn.
Then get up and love again. Feel the paradox.

Z – Zymurgy Blessings (NaPoWriMo #30)

Zymurgy (zy-mur-gy; zī mәr jē) is chemistry that deals with the fermentation processes (as in wine making or brewing), There are zymurgy clubs around America, a brew pub called Zymurgy in Torrance, CA, and even a magazine called Zymurgy. It’s a fancy word for something we didn’t know we had a fancy word for. In words like this, experts, specialists, and aficionados find each other.

 

 ***

A toast to the Grog
By Bill Reynolds

Hold your drink high as we all salute,
Stand proud and tall as you toast our success.
Long we have toiled to blog the last dribble,
To the craft of zymurgy, my final tribute.

To the blessings of grog from the art of the craft,
I brought you my twaddle, the sweet and the daft,
With creative support of that spirited guest,
I sent you my poems, the poor and the best.

From the wine to the beer,
The ferment and brew,
The stout and the red
Went straight to my head.

My thanks to my readers,
Both critics and lovers,
And for the crafters of zymurgy to brew,
Grateful to all, I am thanking you too.

***

Wine to the left, beer on the right,
Look both ways and have a great night.
Of the gaps be mindful, it’s been so delightful.

X – Xu and the Gong (NaPoWriMo #28)

Why do we have x-words, if they sound like they start with z? I’ve discovered the word formerly used to denote a Vietnamese sum of money. The xu (pronounced soo, as in moo, you, or too) is one-hundredth of a dong. Can you see where I went with this? Enjoy!

***

A Xu for You
by Bill Reynolds

I found a lucky Xu
I wanna give it to you.
Ninety-nine more, you kin get a dong.
What’s wrong? Duncha wanna a dong?

With yer dong, ya can get along.
That’s right. You can have a long dong.
A long dong with a song, all…
For a measly, simple xu.

So, wacha gunna do?
First a xu, then a dong.
With yer dong, get a gong.
Bang a gong with yer dong!

So, let’s sing the song,
Let’s bang the gong
You got a dong, so…
Let’s get it on.

***

 

 

Look both ways, then sing the song and bang the gong.
Let’s get it on, but mind the gap in yer dong when you sing the song.