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Friday, November 29, 2013

Thoughts on "Then and Now: The Harmony of the Instantaneous All" and That 1-star Review

I now have a significant number of works out there from novels to novellas to short stories and collections. When I get asked which one is my favorite, the standard response is that they are like your children. What I find interesting in the question is to ponder which among my works are least read. I like Then and Now: The Harmony of the Instantaneous All very much. Whenever I reread it, I really get drawn into it anew. It's set in Lawrence during that turbulent spring of 1970. It's a fictional retelling, but with enough true events to enhance the drama for the characters. It's the only work of mine that has received a one-star review, which I found really interesting because the writer was really upset with himself, not with me. He wanted to have written a similar novel about those times. Listen to parts of the review from "John Brown:"

Disclosure: I have only scanned this book. This book purports to be about Lawrence Kansas in 1969 and 1970. I was there. I ended up in federal prison as a result of an alleged bombing conspiracy. I was personally in the middle of all this author mentions. I was ten feet from Nick Rice when he was shot dead by police in the midst of an unarmed crowd. I was suspected by the Feds of many acts described here in. I was friends with all the main players. This author was not. What I have read is a sorry shadow of the reality of what happened and does an injustice to it.... So many books written about those times are, like this one, written by fringe players or are heavily romanticized, or are somehow apologetic.... someday maybe someone, somewhere will actually write a piece of fiction that catches the reality, but it has not happened yet. Actually, I once tried and the result ended up being over a thousand pages long (no one in their right mind would pick up a thousand page novel by an unheard of author). I was asked to revise it way downward. I couldn't do it and by then it was the year 2000 and I couldn't figure why I was even writing this anymore....

Yes, I was on the fringe, but I was there. I was in the center of my being and the whole purpose of writing Then and Now was to get back to that being and those times. I wasn't writing a history. Nick Rice didn't die in my story, another character, near and dear to the main character, Stan, did. I was writing something that I hoped young people could read today and relate to. So John Brown's anger is displaced. He's angry at himself. Then and Now has not been a sales success. But for me, it is an artistic success. I'm happy with it.

From a writing technique, Then and Now presents an interesting point of view approach. Stan Nelson tells why he is writing Then and Now and creates characters from those times and then traces them to the now, and shows them those parts to see how accurate they are. I think it sets up an interesting push and pull. Listen to Stan as he explains why he is doing what he is doing:

I don't want an essay. I want a re-creation. I want the ultimate in fiction -- to live again in those times. Not so I can understand them. I don't want to understand the 60s. I want to have them again. Live, breathe and feel them again. The ultimate fantasy. Some friends believe it will be therapeutic for me, a kind of acting out that I'll be able to realize as such and so analyze. Others say, Stan, man, it's just escapism, dangerous avoidance of the now. I guess I have to ask myself somewhere along in this thing if there is going to be any worth here for me. I just can't deal with the question now, man -- dude -- bud -- pal: whatever is the generic non-sarcastic appellation in your argot for "friend."

Actually, I'd like to meet this John Brown. I'd like to see his manuscript. I think we might become friends.

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