Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Striving for 5th or The Mesh Between Two Loves...

There was an old tv show that used to title it's episodes with two different names and then separate them with "or" as if to give the viewer the option of choosing the title they felt most applicable. It's bugging the crap out of me that I can't remember what the show was. I always loved that idea and so the title of tonight's post is in honor of this method. If anyone has a clue what I'm talking about, please leave a comment. Otherwise I won't be sleeping anytime soon.

It's no secret that I intend to be a professional writer one day. This blog is only my second serious attempt at beginning the long road towards this dream and it's only the first attempt that can be considered successful. Maybe one day I'll milk some good out of the long hours I poured into the 7 chapters of a failed novel.

Tonight, I came across a post for a book that I had forgotten I had purchased on Amazon a few years ago. I initially bought it to help with term papers and essays that I had to write while taking online courses in Afghanistan.

For the last three years, it's sat on a shelf alongside another book that I had forgotten I had purchased. Stephen King's outstanding work, On Writing. I highly suggest both of these books to anyone interested in furthering their writing skills. The latter is, in my opinion, the most interesting book ever written by King. It stands alone even for those not interested in it for his literary guidance.

I've realized that if I'm ever going to realize this aspiration one day then I had better start now on getting back to the basics. After locating the books, I came back to do some research on Monster.com. While I'm not looking for a job, I wanted to see what's available in the realm of writing. In my area I found that there's not much. Actually, there's not much within a 200 mile radius. So, I dusted off both copies and sat them aside to reread.

After having come up empty in looking to the future, I decided to do some research on the past. The first name that came to mind for me was William Faulkner.

I don't consider William Faulkner to be one of the best American Writers of all time simply because I've NEVER read any of his work. But, apparently the rest of the world does. So, he must have done something very right with his career.

But it's not just Faulkner. I've never spent much time with any of the classics...

Catcher in the Rye, 1984, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, A Clockwork Orange, A Passage To India, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Grapes of Wrath...

Nothing. I've read Of Mice and Men and The Notebook.

Granted, of those listed, I've seen the movie if one were made.

I've read tons of books in my life. I actually read 37 novels in less than two months while in Afghanistan the first time. The first of which was Stephen King's The Dreamcatcher. It took me just shy of two days to finish off this 900+ page monster. I read really fast because once I do sit down to read, I can't focus on anything else. I've never read a book that was made into a movie wherein I liked the movie better. The images in my head of what I'm reading are always better to me than the Hollywood adaptation.

It's just that I've never sat down and read the Classics, those novels, short stories, and essays written by those that have shaped the literary world. I plan to change that.

But, I digress...

Even though I've never read his work I've always had a soft spot for Faulkner considering our birthplace. Had he not died of a heart attack in 1964, he would have been celebrating his 82nd birthday only 24 days after I was born in a small hospital less than 5 miles from where he was born.

My second home, Tupelo, Mississippi, has Elvis.

New Albany, Mississippi, my first home, has Faulkner.

While reading the Wikepedia page on Faulkner, I saw the link for New Albany. I clicked on it and read over some of the facts posted there. I continued to scroll down the page and found 4 names listed as "Notable People".

William Faulkner led the list, obviously.

The second person was a Democratic U.S. Senator by the name of Hubert Stephens who served in the 20's and 30's. Third was Eli Whiteside, a young catcher for the Baltimore Orioles. At first, this name didn't catch my attention. And finally, fourth, was a woman by the name of Betty Wilson.

Betty Wilson lived from September 13, 1890 to February 13, 2006. Mrs. Wilson celebrated the last of her 115 birthdays less than 10 miles from the home of my parents. She lived for 115 years and 153 days. She was survived by one son, five grandchildren, 46 great-grandchildren, 95 great-great-grandchildren and 38 great-great-great grandchildren.


Outside of Faulkner, Eli Whiteside is the only other name I know. I don't know why I didn't realize who it was when I first saw the name on Wikipedia.

Eli and I grew up less than one mile from each other in Northhaven, a small community north of the city of New Albany. Although we were never friends, I remember him vividly in Summer League Ball. This kid was a monster with a bat. I can still remember the grown-ups saying, "This kid's gonna make it to the big leagues one day!" I remember thinking that too.

Well, it looks like Eli got his wish. Considering his career so far, I'm positive that it's not to the extent that he wanted. However, there is still plenty of time for this 29 year old to make an impression on the Major Leagues. I know that he's striving to secure a spot in history by doing what he loves. I, for one, am rooting for "a good kid" to hit it big soon. I'll probably be starting an Eli Whiteside collection so if anyone has any to spare, I would like to trade for them.

Tonight, as I read this short of list of four names, the words of every teacher, preacher, motivational speaker and adult in my life ring true.

"You can be anything you want to be when you grow up."

For some, Politics may be the avenue. As much as I like to debate them, I never want to live them. I can argue with the best of them but the lifestyle is not in my blood. I'm a home body. And I'm not a good liar.

For some, the milestone of seeing history unfold for 115 years might be the ticket. For me, I don't think I would want to live after everyone that I knew and loved are gone.

For most of us, I'm sure that one day becoming a Major League Baseball player was a dream of yours as a kid. I know it was one of mine. I had the desire but I never had the talent. Eli, had both.

For me, it's writing. Other than the obvious of being a husband, father, and dog owner, nothing is more important to me. Nothing excites me or compels me as much as putting my thoughts and ideas on paper (or screen, in this case.) No, I don't understand the process like the "professionals" and I don't always utilize the proper grammar and punctuation. That doesn't matter to me. I can correct those deficiencies. Personally, I think the ability is within me. I think I have the talent if I will just apply it.

With that, I have decided to pursue this love. Over the next year, I'm going to shed some of the frivolous pursuits that I've been chasing and focus on making this a reality. I'm not looking to become a millionaire or to even be recognized as one of the greats. I'm simply setting out to do that one thing that has always made me happiest.

Who knows, in the off chance that I'm successful in this endeavor, I might end up on that New Albany list after all.

Senator, Supercentanarian, MLB Baseball Player, prolific American author....

and me...

Make that TWO prolific American authors.

I wouldn't mind that at all...


  1. Are you thinking of Rocky and Bullwinkle for the dual titles?

    And you're correct, writing is a rush. Over the summer I finally started the novel that's been brewing in my head for about seven years now. I got two pages done and I was most proud. There are days when I wish I could commit more to the written word but the family and the job take first priority. It can be frustrating but I know there'll be a day when I can get up every morning and pound out a dozen pages over a couple cups of coffee and go hang at the ballpark in the afternoon (watching - I too gave up that dream long ago).

    Keep on plugging away. If you want a copy of Catcher in the Rye, I'd be more than happy to send you my copy.

  2. Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" is required reading in just about any college journalism class (or at least it was when I was in college).

    I've never written a novel, but I've been a professional newspaper sports writer (and now editor) for almost 20 years. There are few things in life that will give you the sense of accomplishment that writing does. Completing a well-written story is a rush. I can only imagine what it's like to complete a novel.

    Best of luck. I love to see enthusiasm for the written word.

  3. I like to read a lot, mostly "vacation novels" that are entertaining but not necessarily something my kid is going to be reading for creative writing in college. That's OK. It's funny that after I graduated high school I went back and read a lot of the stuff that I was supposed to read but didn't. They are mostly excellent and made me wish I had a talent for it. If you haven't, go dig up some of those books like "All Guiet on the Western Front" and "A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich (sp?)". I think you'd be pleasantly suprised.

    My favorite "find" is Vonnegut. I can't describe how different, funny, weird, and imaginative he is. He's like no one else. My favorite is Cat's Cradle. The guy was incredible. Heck, I'm not telling you anything you probably don't already know.

  4. Now that you guys mention it, I remember it being from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Although, it still seems as if there was another show that used this method to name each episode. I don't know...

    I actually started reading Slaughterhouse-Five a couple of years ago but never finished it. I agree. I love Vonnegut's style.

    I forgot to mention the Hitchhikers Guide series. I've been a big fan of those over the last 8 years. I loved Mos Def in the movie adaptation...I just hated the movie.

    Kinda like the movie Collateral. I always termed it a, "great Jamie Foxx movie but a horrible Tom Cruise movie." Not sure how that applies but so goes it...

  5. Ryan, I love that line about watching the ballpark after this point in your life! That's an awesome way of putting it...

  6. yeah, slaughterhouse five is a great book. totally disjointed as far as time frames, but very entertaining.