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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Taoism, Anti-Vietnam War Protests, Student Union Burning, Lawrence and A Lot More


In Then and Now: The Harmony of the Instantaneous All I try to deal with Taoism. As the protagonist says in that work: The great thing about trying to explain the Tao is that you can't fail because you can't succeed. I've just realized that I have other stories that have Tao lessons embedded in them and didn't realize it at the time. Oddly enough, they revolve around two sports: golf (Downswing) and snooker (Blue Kansas Sky). Each story is available as an ebook; both are included in a paperback collection of stories, One More Victim.

But this is more of a promo post for Then and Now because it just became available as a paperback. At dinner with friends the other night I was asked what Lawrence, KS and the University of Kansas were like in that turbulent spring of 1970 when I was there: the burning of the Student Union, the curfews, the National Guard patrolling streets, the shooting of a student just outside of where is now the KU Alumni Association.

The questioner noted that his daughter, currently a student at KU and interested in creative writing, was thinking about attempting a novel about that time.

"Tell her I've already done it," I told him and laughed.

That's what Then and Now is all about. It's a fictional rearrangement, but a lot of it isn't fiction either. I started working on it in my 20s, gave up, went back, gave up. Then I found a method that clicked for me. Hope it clicks for other people. I summarize it this way:

Stan Nelson is mired in nostalgia for the 1960s and the woman he lost then. He figures his only way out is to write about why he is so frozen. He creates in words the times and characters of the Then. He locates those characters in the Now so they can comment on the veracity of his words about Then – except for the Chinese woman who first introduced him to the Tao. And it turns out understanding the Tao of building a tea hut in the Now just may be his release from the Then.

It has, I think, a pretty sweet romance story embedded in it and since 1970 is now 42 years ago I've taken to place it in the "Historical Romance" genre. I don't really know into what genre it fits. You tell me.

One side note. During the writing, I remembered an incident from the time that was buried in the Lawrence Journal World at about page 6 or 8 in the police reports. A propane gas delivery truck driver was checking his vehicle before pulling out from his house for his day's deliveries when he noticed a packaged wedged between the truck's dual back tires. The police found it to be a sack of dynamite sticks. Speculation was that had he driven off, the weight of the truck pressing the wheels together would have ignited the truck and ignited the fully load truck and flattened a one-mile radius. You know how memory is. Had I really remembered that or was it urban myth? I spent time at the microfilm reader and found the story. So that little event, so underreported at the time, has a role in Then and Now.

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