Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Journal of a "Novel" - Entry 4

When I last posted on here concerning this project in gestation, I was musing on larger questions about why I am going to try this at all, what chances do I have to succeed, what were the consequences of failure. Those questions still linger, and hopefully the third one will stay way "out there" in the ether, and never be answered. As for the second question, I realize that I'm not all that interested in the odds, for this is no way to approach a writing project, by considering at length the prospects of success or failure. But it is nonetheless a natural way to think, in our weaker moments.

Over the weekend, right at the beginning of the year that should mark the great leap forward on this effort that I have been envisioning, I made two significant steps regarding this: actually, one was a 'step' and one was more of a key acquisition. The 'step' was that I broached this subject in a quick conversation with my Dad, and told him I was interested in writing about his father in a fictional context, and about the Depression. His childhood, more or less. He could not have been surprised, for he must have heard me express interest in this stuff a thousand times before, but he was pretty enthusiastic about it, and seems more than willing to help. In fact, I suggested possibly getting together with him on a future weekend (hopefully this spring?) to delve into as many details as possible in lengthy conversations with him about his hometown, the 30s, the Depression, World War II, whatever else he can remember, and of course, his father. He said he would "love" to do that, and who wouldn't, if their own child came up to them and said, pretty much, "I want to know everything you remember about growing up and about your parent(s)." I can see why he would want to do this, but I am still glad he is willing to help. He doesn't fall over laughing when I talk about wanting to write a novel or write fictionally about his own life, or at least the environment he was raised in. So I guess that is a good thing!

The key acquisition I made was not actually something I procured myself - it was a gift from my ever-searching, tireless brother Duke Altum, who knows that I am immersing myself in this project. True to form, he started keeping an eye out for portentially good resources in used book stores, and he probably found the mother lode......he got me a used, beat-up old copy of a volume of an out-of-print Time Life series called 'This Fabulous Century'. Specifcally, the volume he found for me, and immediately purchased for $9, was '1930-1940', and it was an extraordinary find that will give me a superb amount of background for my project. It is a hard cover book featuring hundreds of photographs and exhibits detailing the 1930s in the United States. It has nearly everything I could want in one place - photos, text, charts detailing how much things cost, how much money people earned, advertisements, information on culture, radio, movies, sports, politics - EVERYTHING you could want from the 30s. With this book I can craft credible scenes where children listen to radio programs or sporting events that will ring true with authenticity. I cannot not thank Duke enough for finding this and IMMEDIATELY purchasing it on my behalf. This is exactly the kind of thing I will need if I am going to make my story believable, and I am very thrilled to have a resource like this to use in the future composition of scenes. I showed it to my father, who looked through it at length, it was truly a trip down memory lane for him.

I don't have much of a story carved out yet; I think that will be some time later. I want to begin formulating my mental impressions of the character (to add to the ones I already have). I talked with my Dad a bit about some of the stories I know about Floyd Lovell, and some of the information that I thought was more or less apocryphal is true: he DID extend credit to his oil customers without his company's (Sinclair Oil) permission, and it DID cost him his job. I think it is interesting that this is true. However, my Dad told me that he didn't do a lot of that until the 40s during the time of World War II. Whether my story will extend into the second World War or not, I am not sure. My original thought was to confine it to the 1930s, but we shall see.

I see Walter Brogan as a guy who would lend a hand to a man who was down, just because he was a man who was down. A guy who enjoyed other people, particularly the company of men, who would do 'business' at the bar over a beer or a whiskey, who would work very hard on principle and on stubbornness, but who would have difficulty expressing himself emotionally or showing tenderness or being gentle with anything or anyone. Probably an impatient man. A burly, red-faced man with gray hair, fair skin, and a bit of an apish lope to his walk.

At this point I am just sketching randomly, which probably does not make for an interesting post but it is how I want to proceed, writing as the spirit moves me so to speak, hoping to stumble on the fragments of the treasure that in the end it's my job to unearth. The mental coalition of thoughts/images/ideas continues.

1 comment:

Duke Altum said...

Well Mutt, I was more than happy to contribute to this project in any way that I could... and it just turned out that I was able to find a cheap resource that you could really use. In line with some of your previous posts about this project, could this find have been, dare I even say the word... "providential"? Time will tell, I guess. But I am motivated in about 1000 different ways for this (oh, all right, I'll use your dumb quotes) "novel" to find its way to completion, for reasons ranging from something like "I am a big fan of GOOD historical American fiction" to "both the author and the inspiration behind the book are blood relatives." And every reason in between.

I will continue to support Mutt's efforts in this in any way that I can, and keep my eyes open for resources, both in print and on the web, that may be of assistance... and Mutt, you had better keep me posted as to what Dad says if and when you get any chances to sit down with him and kick some of this stuff around!