Remember those George Burns Oh, God! movies? Richard Thomas (maybe) does.
(This also calls to mind Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind , a favorite of William S. Burroughs).
Even if we can’t all quite agree with Thomas’ assessment of the “rules” of writing (I’m in deep trouble if these are indeed the rules), we can get behind the dumping of this manuscript to the recesses of the Jaynes’ silent hemisphere of the brain.
And there, nothing quite lives on.
The first book I ever wrote was a complete and utter failure. Remembering? I’d like to forget. Two years, several workshops, and many lost nights pouring over tarot cards, books on astrology and conversations with God netted me a pretentious, preachy book that will never see the light of day. It relied too much on my personal experiences—rewriting events of my life that (at the time) had significant meaning, but in the telling were nothing but a series of drug aided, hallucinatory, dream-state apparitions.
It’s good for a laugh—I will say that much about it. Going back and looking at it now, I am pained to see how much bad writing went into it. I didn’t follow any of the basic rules of writing: show don’t tell, narrative hooks, conflict/resolution, you name it. I didn’t use all of my senses in telling the story…the narrative often floated in the ether and it didn’t come to any sort of satisfying climax.
I think the original idea is still a good one: a man gets the answers to all of the world’s problems direct from God, and tries to fix us all. If you can imagine a person standing on a street corner or talking to you over beers or sending you an e-mail, well, the appearance is that of a lunatic, right? I’ve spoken to God, and here’s what we need to do. Right, keep walking buddy. Triggered by a series of Philip K. Dick stories and the movie Waking Life, this could have been a good book.
But I got it out of my system and had the sense to keep it to myself. Here’s a representative exchange of dialogue:
“Sit down, Chris,” Joe said. “Want a pop or something? I’m on good behavior. Diet Dr. Pepper.”
“Well, and the joint,” Chris smiled.
“Well,” Joe stuttered, “a little wake and bake never hurt anybody.”
“Don’t worry about it. I used to smoke a ton in college. Just because I’m on this evolution kick, it doesn’t mean I’m gonna get all righteous on your ass. All holier then thou.” (sic)
“I know. Light some incense if you want. If the smell bothers you.”
“Actually, I like the smell.”
Oh my God, is that terrible. And the main character’s name is just so stupid. In this story about God and miracles and revelations, what do you think his name would be? Right. Christopher. CHRIST is secretly in HIS NAME! I was so clever. And his full name? It was Christopher Allan Budding, as in Christ, Allah, Buddha. Isn’t that a riot?
What was I thinking? When people say that you shouldn’t write a book until you’re forty, I kind of understand what they mean. My life experiences at that time were limited to drinking, drugs, sex, and a litany of menial jobs as a waiter, administrative assistant, delivery guy and bellman—I wasn’t exactly a man of the world.
Who wants to make a bonfire?
Richard Thomas was the winner of the 2009 “Enter the World of Filaria” contest at ChiZine. He has published dozens of stories online and in print, including the Shivers VI anthology (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, Murky Depths, PANK, Pear Noir!, Word Riot, 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika, Vain, and Opium. His debut novel Transubstantiate was released in 2010. In his spare time he writes book reviews at The Nervous Breakdown.
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Davis Schneiderman is a multimedia artist and writer and the author or editor of eight print and audio works, including the novels Drain, Abecedarium, and Blank; the co-edited collections Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game; as well as the audio-collage Memorials to Future Catastrophes. His first short story collection, there is no appropriate #emoji—with collaborations from Lance Olsen, Cris Mazza, Kelly Haramis, Stacy Levine, Tim Guthrie, Andi Olsen, and Megan Milks—will be released in Fall 2019.
His work has also appeared in numerous publications, including Fiction International, The Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, and TriQuarterly.
He is Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Lake Forest College.