Last week I announced that we were starting a private Facebook group for Writers and Readers called WRITE EDIT WRITE. Well I am happy to say that we have had a great response to the announcement and our group includes a growing host of active and creative members. And while we’re still getting situated and figuring things out, we have held our very first WEW CHALLENGE, a challenge where members were asked to post a 250-word or less flash fiction or flash essay. I am again happy to say we had a fantastic response, with the following selection being representative of the fine writing being exhibited by all.
To read all the submissions, visit here.
To learn more about the private group, visit here.
Please check out the writing and stop by the authors’ websites to show them your support.
Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice? She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.
To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.
Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before, for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four month old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.
“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.
“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.
Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.
With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.
…I am knee deep (I’m pretty tall dude so that’s pretty darn deep) into so much stuff* — stuff being formatting my two latest books HOW NOT TO DIE and SHORT VERSES & OTHER CURSES into print editions; setting up the logistics for the film adaptation of my short story “Leave” (fundraiser announcement soon – that’s right, I’m looking at you); adapting my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR into a screenplay (so that I’ll have it to shop around when I go out to LA to work on “Leave”); and of course the latest WIP — that I’v given up on it.
If it matters, I do feel quite guilty about it…
In fact, I feel quite guilty about not publishing much at all around here lately.
Publish or perish, an all that…
But, as a consolation for my quitting on this review, I recently read this interesting read from the Paris Review, which kind of (but far from exactly) reflects my thoughts on my relationship with Hemingway, and I offer it as a very nice, if not nicer, substitute.
In addition to discussing things such as my relationship with the Big Papa, I also had good intention (and we all know what the path to hell is paved with) to compare and contrast Hemingway’s view of Fitzgerald and Paris in the Twenties as found in his memoir with the beat up protagonist in Fitzgerald’s short story (perhaps a view similar to one he had of himself) “Babylon Revisited” (one of the best short stories ever put to paper).
I probably would have giddily gushed a bit about Woody’s “Midnight In Paris,” too…
However, because of all the stuff presented above and the nice PR essay, I lost my head of steam for it all and this is as far as I got/am getting with it…
The Romance versus the Reality of Hemingway’s Paris of the “Lost Generation”
Pretty lame, I know; but what can say other than that the offer I presented in my “Hey Reader, What’s Your Angle?” post still stands. I’m still looking for good reviews to read, and perhaps reblog, that illustrate your reading and critiquing strategy… a bonus now for me would be ones that discuss Hemingway and/or Fitzgerald.
Can a brother get a link or two to a review, or what?
*Isn’t it funny how I’m always whining about how much I have to do, yet I somehow still found the time to promote inform you about all the stuff I have to do? Weird.
And you may have seen several of my posts where I discuss how much Dr. Dyer has meant to me over the recent years.
And you may have noticed that I often referred to him, this man who has meant so much to me and whose wisdom and guidance I so heavily relied upon, as the Greatest of Gurus and as my own Personal Pope.
And you may be aware, if you, too, are an admirer of Dr. Dyer, that he did not regard death with fear; instead, he looked at death as an opportunity for our everlasting soul to expand out of and away from this material, finite vessel we call our body, and return to and within the infinite and everlasting Soul of the Single Song (aka, the Universe (uni-verse – get it?)… Or something to that effect.
And you may understand, then, why I am a bit conflicted. One the one hand, I celebrate the release of Dr. Dyer’s Soul back into the infinite wild of its original and natural habitat. While on the other, me being a normal, irrational human being who can’t escape his Ego, ergo, he can’t escape his damning Desire nor his fear of Death, I am very bummed that he is no longer here on Earth, in his aged and deteriorating vessel of the human kind, being all sagacious and wise and a bit more than slightly goofy.
And you may predict, and rightly so, that, because of all this, I would want to try find ways to stay as close to the Essence of Dr. Dyer’s broad and deep Message and Meaning.
And you may realize, had you an opportunity to look over the submissions for this volume of the Indie Author Book Selection & Review, that several of the books are closely aligned to Dr. Dyer’s out there way of thinking.
To be honest, had Dr. Dyer still been with us, I probably would have selected G. N. Boorse’s DON’T TOUCH THE GLASS. Not only do I love the cover and his website and his write-up on the back of the book, I was also ready to read something as edgy and obscure as his book sounds. See, as advertised down below at my #Amreading widget, I #amreading Maupassant’s ALIEN HEARTS. And it’s all about (too much so) love and the psychological implications of infatuation. In other words, I’m having a hard time finishing it. And it was because Boorse’s book seems to be completely opposite from what I am now reading that I was planning on choosing his. That and, to be honest, I was also intending to choose his because, even though I occasionally write it, I rarely read poetry or abstract writing, such as K.D. Rose’s appears to be (it’s all too hard for my feeble mind to grasp), nor do I read, despite my affection for Dr. Dyer, “New Age” (for a lack of a better term) or self-help books, such as Avril Meyler’s appears to be.
But now, as things stand, the kind of books submitted by Meyler and Rose are exactly what I am yearning to read.
And out of the three books (two by Meyler – A MULTIDIMENSIONAL PARADIGM and A NEW HUMAN) and one by Rose – HEAVY BAGS OF SOUL), I am selecting for this volume of the IABS&R A NEW HUMAN because it looks to be the closest in content to what it is I want rattling around my brain right now.
I want to thank so very much all three authors for their submissions. I am very honored and humbled to be in such a position. And just because only one book has been chosen for this exercise of a literary contest of sorts, it doesn’t mean that I won’t read and review the others. I truly intend to do so.
Now, I’m not sure when my review of A NEW HUMAN will be posted – I still have to finish my current read, as hard as that may be, and review it (it was my intention to review it anyway – we’ll see…). Regardless, I will try to get things expedited and completed the best I can.
Again, thank you to G.N. Borse, K.D. Rose, and Avril Meyler.
And thank all of you for allowing me to use this opportunity to express my love and appreciation for the life and work of Dr. Dyer. May he enjoy all the infinite and everlasting heavenly rewards he so greatly deserves.
I’m very happy to say that we have yet another submission to ponder over for Volume IV of the Indie Author Book Selection & Review. And by what I’ve seen of the book so far, it appears to be quite the submission, indeed. And I’m very very happy to say that this may not even be the last volume submission. I have it on good authority from Author Erica Miles that I just may receive yet one more book prior to August 8, 2015, our cutoff date for submissions to this volume. And if by chance it, or any other book submission for that matter, doesn’t make it by our cutoff date – no worries, we’ll just include for the next volume.
But regardless whether we get to check out Erica’s book in this volume or the next, you can check out what she has going on right now at authorericamilesblog.wordpress.com.
It is now my pleasure to present to you…
I’m always humbled and very appreciative of the kind notes and inscriptions you all write for me in the books you send my way. I wish I would have (because I certainly should have) mentioned it before. However, along with the book K.D. Rose sent me, I received not only a very nice hand-written note (handwriting is such a rare occurrence anymore that in and of itself deserves acknowledging), but also one very cool diddy of an inscription that goes a little like this:
You can say you got a masterpiece for free —
Then toss it in the garbage.
How Zen is that?!
– KD Rose
Oh yeah – very Zen.
So Zen, in fact, I shall clap in honor of its Zen-ness with one hand.
From the back cover:
It is half past dark and we are in a graveyard orbit. Travelers have lost their way. Mankind is hard of hearing. We have abandoned insight and revelation for commerce and merry-go-rounds of distraction. But wonder is still in the palm of our hand. Wisdom is everywhere when we pay attention. We hold the key to orchards in camouflage and we are charged with the task of taking vision and making it into reality–beyond anything that exists and beyond what others say can be done. Learning this is an absolute requirement to survival.
WHAT YOU DO NEXT, IS UP TO YOU.
All I have to say about that is… Whoa…
Aesthetically speaking, HEAVY BAGS OF SOUL is a very eye-appealing book and there is a lot of mystery and intrigue going on with its cover; which is good because I suspect there is a lot of the same going on with its content, as well. Flipping through its pages I see poetry and stories and what looks to be asides of this and that. I can’t say for sure yet which book will be the selection for this volume but I can say for sure that this book has definitely captured my interest…
Stay tuned for K.D. Rose’s Guest Post — it’s gonna be a good one…
Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?
Here we find Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the opening passage of his introduction to his seminal essay “Nature,” bemoaning the distance he and his generation are from anything Original and True as compared to preceding generations. As he sees it, only through the firsthand experiences and the tales of our forefathers and foremothers have we been able to learn our life’s lessons and traditions. The gleaming highest highs our civilizations are able to reach are only because of the solid foundations built from and with Nature’s sacred mud by the caring and calloused hands of those to whom have gone before us and who now uplift us still.
If the great Emerson, a transcendental man, perhaps the Transcendental Man as he was in possession of a most extraordinary ability to focus and perceive that which the eye of most mortals miss, is shocked by such a revelation, then it seems to this less-than-transcendental and exceedingly mortal man just how far we find our present selves from those God beholding foregoing generations would bring about the death of fright to such a perceptive and feeling man as he.
And it is not just a distance in generational time I am referring to, but also, mostly, a distance in understanding, as perhaps the same could be said of Emerson’s meaning; though as far as he felt his generation was from an understanding of the Original and True, just how much farther away from understanding we of the present are is too hard for me to imagine.
Just what does our generation know of Nature? of God? of the Universe? Just how many more countless sepulchres have we built and how many more countless biographies have we written? Surely we know greatly of nature and of god and of the universe through the words and misdeeds of our spawning and splintering sects and religious disorders, and through the kaleidoscopic lens and the equations of the material, the physical, carried out to the farthest nth of a degree, accessible to only but a few of our most scientific of brains. Yea, ours is but a weak and plastic generation with hardly one of us finding even a germ under the nail let alone a fleck of sacred earthen mud, so far removed from Nature and Her Elements are we.
Like the everlasting trees Of the most symbolic
Our ancients bare green before us Full in their lustrous branches Roots firmed in their foundation While with the passing breeze Our limbs naked and thin We waive
Lo! but look at me. Look at me, me with my naked, thin limbs waiving away my right of birth to ancient spirits more alive long dead than I whose blood still courses hot will every be. I whose blood still courses hot but whose heart has grown cold and without passion for the Original, the True. I lie content each night having yet let another day slip away without once baring my feet and stepping into the grass; without once feeling the raw moonglow on my rusty skin.
But it wasn’t always so. I wasn’t always so distant from the Original and the True. And neither were you, for we were all born of and from the Original and of the True. It is who, in essence, I am and who you are.
We just forgot, that’s all.
We just allowed each passing day to take us farther and farther from who we were born to be.
So much time has
passed since then,
since I last felt raw
my rusty skin,
that I have forgotten
how the breath of night
can upturn a sallow face.
when I could still remember
how to pause,
and how to listen,
and how to breathe,
for more reasons
than just to breathe,
I knew fields
and calico aster;
I knew how to kneel,
and how to observe,
and how to bring myself to quiet.
And I knew,
that if I lay
on my back
beneath the reeds
and remained hushed,
as night clouds
shadowed and silent,
that my Self
would simply fall
As romping youth we did not have to be told how to meditate, how to pray. We just knew. We had no need for such technical terms as spirituality or epiphany or satori, for it was in our unknowing that we were able to truly know them. And now that we know them, we know nothing.
I suppose the question is, then, can we return to our essence? Can we, in our knowledge and understanding, return to the bliss of ignorance, to the wisdom of youth, so that we can come back again, if even just a little closer, to the Original and True.
Are we able to do that, knowing what we know?
I’ll bare my feet
and step old and aching
into the caliginous balm
of the cool redemptive night.
A subtle chain of countless rings
The next unto the farthest brings;
The eye reads omens where it goes;
And speaks all languages of the rose;
And, striving to be man, the worm
Mounts through all the spires of form
Too often I’ll show little regard to introductions and read through them with hardly reading them at all, my eyes skimming dismissively over the words in an effort to get to “the true essence” of the work. However, as I have resolved to not just read, but to read deeply the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I have to remember, then, that care needs to be given to each of the words that Emerson had specifically chosen to pen, as he had entrusted each chosen word to convey its part of a broader message that he had, himself, intended to convey. So it is with care and attention that I proceed.
Other than the title, the above poem is our first encounter with the essay “Nature,” the first piece presented in The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson; and, consequently, the first commitment to that which I have resolved myself. But before considering the poem, we mustn’t overlook the essay’s title; for, from it, we can focus more clearly on the meaning of the poem specifically, as well as the body of work writ large.
Hardly can there be a title broader in meaning than “Nature,” for the word encompasses so much: the essence of the Natural Environment – all within the world and all the worlds within the universe; the essence of the Human Environment – all that which the mind thinks and the body feels; as well as the Environment of the Animal, which may or may not include humans, depending on one’s belief. Though broad and ambiguous, it is full of meaning, as any title should be, as it prepares our minds for all the largesse and grandeur that both Nature, Herself, and the mind and poetic ambition of Emerson can account for. The title, therefore, helps us greatly in our discovery, in that it prepares us to read both the poem and the essay with a universal and open mind, where metaphors and allusions are to be found with meaning, and meaning more.
The poem, itself an introduction to the introduction, is both untitled and unattributed. Often we find authors will select poems and quotes from others, mostly those recognized by history as being of the elite authorial class, as a preface or opening to his or her work. These introductions in brief are generally an attempt to provide a broad look into the author’s mind and, hopefully, to the direction that his or her writing will be taking us. However, as it is untitled, and as Emerson’s reputation precedes his work, for he, himself, is regarded by many to be an elite author, it is easy enough to assume that the poem is an original piece by him. Still, the poem remains untitled, which only means that we will have to rely more heavily on its content, looking closely at each sentence and the words within for us to gain of it our fullest appreciation. So with the poem, let us begin.
A subtle chain of countless rings / The next unto the farthest brings;
Right away, the poem’s “subtle chain” announces that in the essay, as in Nature, we should expect revelations of mysteries linked yet boundless; simple in form, perhaps, yet complex and profound in meaning. For the “subtle” or simple chain, a common yet powerful metaphorical device, enlightens us with its “countless rings” – its circles of life – by alluding to the eternal fact that Nature in all her majesty enjoins all together in common constituency within her universal realm, from the most diminutive to the most grand, “unto the farthest brings” – to the infinite’s endless end.
The eye reads omens where it goes;
Sad would be the soul who hasn’t walked even the shortest way into the wood or out into the empty, expansive field, to where everything slows down to quiet and allows one to hear Nature’s call, be it through the creaking sway of the trees or the hum of the wind upon the grass. For once where She Her presence reveals, so, too, will Her omens, signs signalling the nature of our Collective and Universal Soul through the mundane: acorns scattered on the wooded floor signals life’s endless cycle of birth and death, as the mist of the passing clouds signals the transformative and transient nature of life itself.
And speaks all languages of the rose;
While not all of us speak the same language, we all can look at the rose and equally understand its beauty. And, regardless of all the many different ways we may express it in words, we all have that same feeling of awe and humility as we arrive at that deep and soulful understanding of just how small our presence is when looking up towards that grand vastness above filled with its countless twinkling diamonds of light.
And, striving to be man, the worm / Mounts through all the spires of form
The line suggests that the worm in its striving is emulating our behavior; however, I read it as further suggesting that from the worm’s behavior we have learned to strive, from the worm we have evolved, and as the worm forever works through all forms of nature – be it the soil, the wood, the apple – to realize its true nature, we, too, forever work “through all spires of form” – be they the physical or metaphysical – continuous “unto the farthest brings,” as do links of an endless “subtle chain,” in a most noble and enduring of effort to realize our own true nature.
With this meditation on a one-word title and one-sentence poem we discover that, while both may appear simple in form, both hold complex and profound messages that are, we must assume, a herald’s call as to the further complexities and profundities that await us.
I am not one who dwells on the past, or, at least I try not to; for, unless one is fondly recalling, perhaps in a prayerful moment of divine gratitude, all the wonders and blessings the Begetter On High has begotten one, it is mostly a futile and potentially harmful self-flagellating exercise of ego worship in the negative. However, as hard as I try to stay securely in the now and out of the then, I still do find myself unconsciously lost back yonder from time to time reflecting on my life, and I am highly skeptical of anyone who righteously says in a wispy Eckhart Tolle wannabe voice while meditation bells softly chime in the background that they never do. (Just as I am even more highly skeptical of anyone who says they have complete and whole body faith in anything, be it their favorite sports figure or favorite God figure — we all have our doubts. But I digress…) So, if I were to be in the dwelling-in-my-past kind of mood, and if, while there, I were to dwell down even deeper into that dark danger zone of “what ifs”, I just might wonder what my life would have been like if I were to have had the strength and integrity to commit it to such intellectual rigor and deep thinking as Kenzaburō Ōe has had and has done throughout his highly acclaimed and respected life. Just where would my brain and I be right now? Unfortunately, I can only imagine.
When I was in my twenties, my mentor Kazuo Watanabe told me that because I was not going to be a teacher or a professor of literature, I would need to study by myself. I have two cycles: a five-year rotation, which centers on a specific writer or thinker; and a three-year rotation on a particular theme. I have been doing that since I was twenty-five. I have had more than a dozen of the three-year periods. When I am working on a single theme, I often spend from morning to evening reading. I read everything written by that writer and all of the scholarship on that writer’s work.~ Kenzaburo Oe, Paris Review
I have read much of Ōe’s work and I believe it is some of the finest writing written, deserving all the acclaim and respect it has earned him, including the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s highest literary honor, and, of course, the Nobel Prize for Literature; however, it is his integrity and commitment to that which he holds dear that I most admire about him. He is an ardent supporter of human rights and proponent for peace, mostly through his lifelong activism for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. But even more than his activism, I admire him mostly for his love and care and complete devotion to his mentally disabled and musically savant adult son Hikari, of whom most of Ōe’s inspiration has been drawn from and much of his writing has been about.
So, what is one to do when one admires someone as much as I admire the great Kenzaburō Ōe? Emulate the behavior of the one whom is admired, of course.
And that is what I resolve to do. To emulate Ōe’s behavior of surveying broadly and digging deeply into both an author’s work and life.
I have decided to commence this resolute commitment of mine with one of the greatest intellects my country, the United States, has begotten: Ralph Waldo Emerson. While familiar with the man and his work on a surface level — an essay here, a poem there, not to mention all the quotes of his that travel and transcend all the ethernets throughout the internet — I have yet to fully discover and understand the man and his work. To begin this discovery and understanding process, I will read first his Complete Essays and Other Writings, followed by (or perhaps even in conjunction with) Oliver Wendell Holmes’s work, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Biography.
Now, I have no intention of committing to, or even attempting, Ōe’s herculean three-year / five-year schedule; I do, however, intend to read as much of Emerson’s writing, as well as writing about him and his writing, that my way less than Ōe-ian brain can hold. And, I also intend to document this Emersonian commitment of mine here, through the posting of essays and other reflections on my readings. What, or whom, awaits me after I fulfill my Emerson commitment, I am not yet certain. I will let the literature decide.
Wish me well please, for I may need your encouragement from time to time.
But, who knows, maybe I won’t need it so much, as I am quite excited about this initiative; for just think of the opportunity I am providing myself – henceforth, a lifetime committed to the full development of my own intellect. Who can predict what joys and benefits I will reap from this effort? Because in twenty-five years when I am close to the age Ōe is now, I don’t want to be able to just imagine where my brain and I will be after such an enduring and fulfilling effort, I want both my brain and me to actually be there. I want to be able to, perhaps in a prayerful moment of divine gratitude, reflect on the twenty-five years gone past, and give thanks for all the additional wonders and blessings that the Begetter On High has begotten me because I was able to have had, if not fully, then at least partially, lived such an admirable life of integrity and commitment as had the great Ōe himself.
(Okay, the following intro paragraph is going to hurt a bit. Just look at that thing…one big blob of a block of text. You may want to grab yourself a cuppa of whatever it will take for you to keep the eyelids propped up for about fifteen sentences cram packed with pedantic pain. Are you ready for all that? Are you sure? All right, don’t say I didn’t warn you…good luck.)
On my About page I mention something to the effect that I consider myself somewhat of an human relations guy. I mentioned that for a several reasons. One being that I really enjoy humans; I don’t always enjoy being around them in close and confining proximity so much as I enjoy observing them, scientific like…from a safe and considerable distance…with multiple escape routes just in case things go sideways without notice like they so often do whenever a human is involved in the equation. And another reason I consider myself as a human relations guy is because I gots that paper that says I am. In addition to an undergrad degree in English, which I believe is fundamental to just about all I have become, good like and bad like, because it instilled even deeper into me than it was prior, which was already pretty deep, a love for literature and an appreciation for the language it takes to paint a story, which usually involves humans. But I gots more paper props, too. At about 2/3rds the way through my navy career, I got a little bored with my primary gig – telecommunications – and I looked for a way to take a break. I found that break by volunteering and qualifying for a three-year stint in a, go figure, human relations gig where I served as an Equal Opportunity specialist. To qualify, I first had to attend three-months of intensive, so called, sensitivity training (a misnomer because instead of being sensitive to my feelings, it exposed them and ripped off their calloused protective scars and scraped over them until they were bloody and raw), where I learned about how much of a turd white males have been throughout the United States history, and before. It was a very tough, but wonderfully enlightening, three-months. And finally, to top off my ice cream claim to my human relations affinity is a cherry of masters degree in, go figure, Human Relations.
So why did I just put you through all that?
Because I need your help.
And the reason I am asking you for your help, is because, even though I’ve had considerable experience of and in the field of human relations, I still don’t feel I am the one most qualified to do what it is I want to accomplish here.
But I think you are.
I think you know much better than I about what it is like to be a woman in this somewhat of a misogynistic world, or to be a person of color in this somewhat of a racist world, or to be a homosexual in this somewhat of a homophobic world…
Yeah, you know…
So I was wondering, knowing all that you know about all you’ve learned and experienced while maneuvering through this difficult and sometimes dangerous obstacle course called life, would you please help me please?
I have been neck-high into the medical establishment since my leukemia diagnosis in November 2009. Consequently, while I do not consider myself an expert of the establishment by any stretch of the imagination, I do believe that I am far too acutely aware of it. But, I guess that is to be expected from someone as critically dependent upon it as I am.
In addition to my practical experiences with hospitals and doctors and examinations and extremely long needles, I have also spent much time reading about the establishment, especially that aspect of it which relates to the treatments of leukemia and chronic graft versus host disease (cGVHD) of the lungs.
Most of my medical-related reading has been as research conducted on the internet.
Thank god for the internet. I am one of those annoying types who like to be knowledgeable just enough about something to make me, if not dangerous (which it just may), then certainly annoying.
I’ve come to find out over the past three years that doctors are a lot of fun to annoy.
While there are probably more books about cancer out there stalking, I mean, stocking the shelves than there are cancerous cells, I don’t recall ever reading any of them.
I don’t know why. Maybe because they all seemed too sanitary or too personal or too impersonal or too whiney or too who knows what.
I didn’t so I just left them all alone; that is, until I learned that the legendary Harvey Pekar had his own version of a cancer story to tell.
Pekar, who died recently, is famous for his graphic novel series AMERICAN SPLENDOR, in which he chronicles his life as a VA Hospital file clerk in Cleveland, Ohio. It doesn’t sound like much to work with — Cleveland, file clerk, VA Hospital — but somehow it has endured through the years and was even turned into a flick starring the always spot-on Paul Giamatti as Pekar.
In 1990, Pekar was diagnosed with and treated for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Four years after surviving through that experience, he collaborated with his wife Joyce Brabner to publish an AMERICAN SPLENDOR-like graphic novel called OUR CANCER YEAR.
OUR CANCER YEAR is a gritty, honest and, sometimes, horrific portrayal of what life was like for Pekar and his wife while battling the disease.
But it is about more than just his experience with cancer. Pekar’s wife is also a comic book writer who focuses her work on peace projects. Through her efforts, we are provided side story glimpses about Operation Desert Shield and her work with teenage peace activists. And, because they had recently purchased a home at the time of his diagnosis, we also have the added stress that comes with buying a home on top of everything else that is happening to them.
I found the book interesting because Pekar really was able to bring out the hope and heartache and stress and pain that one, and one’s loved ones, must endure throughout the entire cancer experience, from first finding out about the disease, to all the damage that the chemotherapy treatment does to the body, to the overwhelming toll it takes on those closest to the cancer patient trying to care for him. It was also interesting to me to compare how he managed to cope with the disease versus how I tried to manage.
Let’s just say he is a glass half empty kind of guy. While I typically am too, I never felt as down about the disease as he apparently did.
While Pekar and I had many similar experiences battling our respective cancers, we also had many differences. One of the most significant differences was a painful experience that he had to go through that I never did (at least not yet–knock on wood). Pekar contracted Herpes Zoster, also known as shingles. For some reason, Shingles are a big threat to chemotherapy patients. Thankfully, my doctors were very aggressive about it and put me on an antiviral drug called Valtrex (Valaciclovir) as a preventative measure for at least a year, and which I will probably take for the rest of my life. Pekar also suffered much worse hallucinations and anxiety than I did as an effect from all the drugs cancer patients typically have to take.
While most of what you need to know about the medical establishment in general and cancer in particular can be found on the internet, some things can’t. In my perspective, if you really want to get telling insight into the hardships that come with having cancer you either need to experience it yourself first-hand, which I emphatically do not recommend, or you need to experience it in a less graphic but completely realistic and touching way, like reading Pekar’s graphic novel OUR CANCER YEAR.