When I found myself in love with literature

I don’t normally post reflective entries to my blog, but this week has been a little different for me. So instead of launching straight into fiction, I wanted to share a little bit of background on these short pieces. This week I started back as a substitute teacher, and it has brought back a lot of memories from that time in my life. Some good, some bad. For me high school was a typical whirlwind of change and emotions. I used to think I would never live through such a traumatic time as those four years, but time (and a degree in psychology) has given me a lot of perspective on my formative years. My circumstances used to separate me from the crowd. I now realize that I probably wasn’t that different than most of the people that surrounded me day in and day out, struggling just to keep their heads above the tidal waves of emotion and autonomy that flood the lives of hormonal teens. Sometimes those years seem so overwhelming in scope that I can’t separate them out in my mind. Luckily a silver thread of fiction ties them all together into a neat little package.

My final year in high school was particularly rife with turmoil and change. Among the movement, I found a great deal of comfort in the stability offered by our forefathers of fiction. They were established bulwarks in time, their work proven against the test of time so that today we know their names and call them great. That year I had one of the most wonderful English teachers of my educational career. She consumed literature with a voracious passion and taught us to do the same. Her class was divided by genre. For each genre she assigned 2 or 3 books, a couple of short stories, and a play or two. Forget keeping up with the reading assignments; that was next to impossible given the sheer volume of text we were given. But I read what I could and finished the rest over the years.

As we traversed genres, I began challenge myself to mimic the style and content of my favorites. I began with Kafka mimicking his Contemplations, radically short spurts of absurd writing that seemed meaningless on the surface but was none the less understood by the heart. I posted that piece here as my initial blog post. It seemed symbolic at the time.

Kafka flowed into Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I was intrigued by the idea of the Caterpillar making words mean what he wanted them to mean. More than that, I began to relish the idea of making words up completely–words that may not mean much in a Wernike language processing sense, but that breathe the sounds of the soul. I penned this poem in response to Mr. Carroll.

The Garden of Aristophanes

Oh let’s go trampsing down the way,

Far past the rithing gronginay,

And meet amongst the withen stack

Behind the berry bushelbracks.

There will be mithen there to eat,

And drinks from sumptuous meri leaks.

And we can whisper sweet sherungs

And tide the day till night arungs.

For what’s to do, and what’s to say,

And what would happen anyway

If we forgot the kimens wee

And lost fair Aristophanes?

So let’s anon, anon today,

Far past the rithing gronginay,

And meet amongst the withen stack

Till Tine arise and call us back.

This piece became source material for some of the stories I am working on now, so not bad for a post-pubescent teen without a fully developed frontal lobe.

Finally, dear readers, I will leave you with this, one of my first short stories inspired by Mr. Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For those that have read  Hitchhiker’s I don’t have to explain the draw of Mr. Adam’s absurdly amusing contribution to the Sci/Fi community. For those that have not read it, do. It’s just so damn funny.

An Alien Crashed my Party

He walked, no, more like lurked through my front door. Searching, always searching—for what? How should I know? If someone looked toward him, he would straiten, flash an unmistakably debonair smile, then continue on his way lurking. I had the sneaking suspicion he could possibly be from some alien land. Nebraska, perhaps. I had never met anyone from Nebraska—neither, for that matter, had anyone I’d known ever spoken, even in remote terms, of meeting a man from Nebraska—so how was I to know if it was or was not the commonly accepted way for Nebraskans to get around, this lurk of a walk. And who was I to condemn a Nebraskan for lurking when all he had ever been taught to do was lurk?

I decided to take another drink and follow him.

If not the very least of my peculiar findings, I came to redefine his smile. It was not, as formerly spoken, “unmistakably debonair,” but rather, “irrefutably charming.” Take note of this correction, as I am nearly certain it shall not come into any use whatsoever in the telling of my story and even more almost undoubtedly sure that it will never pertain to your life (unless, perhaps you grow up and find you have somehow grown to be a writer, such as me, though you were distinctly sure you meant to be a lawyer and must have made a wrong turn somewhere back near I75, and then you shall come to understand that as fragile as the English language is, if you find the perfect phrase such as I have in my description of “irrefutably charming,” you copyright it immediately, hence forth making it entirely useless even to a writer, and, as we all know, the more useless information your mind retains, the less useful information it can learn).

Though it may be wise to now note that that same irrefutably charming smile, when flashed at a women across a noisy room sets in motion a complex yet profoundly easy to induce chemical reaction within the brain that stimulates a longing within the woman for the wearer of said irrefutably charming smile. I well took note when a particularly fine woman, who, you might well know, I had been trying earlier to get off with—trying and yet failing—walked over to this Nebraskan and practically threw herself on him in a mad fury of groping and kissing. Well, what was I to do?

I’m sure I could have done many things, but I decided that my best bet would be to take another drink, forget about that fox and her Nebraskan, and find an easier woman. So I did.