I posted a song of mine on YouTube last night. Click on the image above, and a new window will open up so you can watch the song. The lyrics are below.
[If you’re on a computer and having trouble, click here: Sperry Hunt: Santa Fe County]
Santa Fe County
©2013 Sperry Hunt
Thanks for the drivin’ me to San Antone
And for waitin’ til my midnight bus had gone
Sorry I had say you couldn’t to come.
But my road is just too hard for one so young.
But I wish you could see the rainfall drape the sky
When the sun lights the mesa it’s like God’s in your eye.
Kurt Brindley created this post on his blog which I like very much. I too was very impressed by Natalie Goldberg’s book. My favorite passage was the one in which she talks about how some ideas are songs, some are poems, some are novels, etc. Very good advice.
I watched Drake Doremus’ 2013 film Breath In last night. I always enjoy seeing Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones, both of whom seem to be everywhere these days. I wondered what would draw them both into what seemed to be a tiny film. I was not disappointed.
The story is essentially a British forbidden love novel with all the right beats and few of the traps that D. H. Lawrence would have merrily strewn through it. The actors were well chosen, and every effort was made to restrain what could easily have been a tawdry, melodramatic and self-righteous tale. Doremus, who also wrote the film, made sure that every character had a firm perspective and the romance was attributed at least in part to events in their lives at that moment. What happened could simply not have been avoided by real people, which should be said of all stories.
Good stories have clear characterization, character being defines as desire, drive, ability, compassion and perspective all of which change over a lifetime. Here’s a simple example of those changes from my own family history. I’ve been thinking about this lately as I ponder my upcoming knee replacement.
Philo Howard, my mother’s brother, was a frank, funny, energetic man. At sixteen, he ran away to Canada from his home in Houston. There, he lied about his age and joined the Canadian Royal Air Force to fight in WWII, which the US had not yet entered. His whereabouts were determined by my dad’s mother who read an article in the Houston paper listing Texas volunteers. Uncle Philo was returned to the bosom of his family forthwith. Several years later he enlisted in the American Air Corps and flew P-51s over Europe.
My family had a party in Houston in 2003 to celebrate what would have been my late father’s 100th birthday. My uncle, who recently had his pacemaker replaced, couldn’t make the party. He emailed me this tribute to be read at the celebration. My dad, Judge Wilmer Hunt, was nearly twenty-years his senior. To his great sorrow he was denied military service due to his age, very flat feet and a knee injured by my mother. (That’s another story.) The setting of Philo’s account is the rich farmland of eastern Texas in the 50’s. By prison, my uncle was referring to a pea farm, as they were called back then. They were minimum security prisons where inmates grew food for the prison system.
Wilmer was my favorite, because he liked to fish and many times took me along. One time he took me to Kemah and we got in a small skiff and towed [it] out to the middle of the bay for four hours. I was always a little hyper, and I almost jumped out of the boat after about an hour. Wilmer seeing this, started telling me stories. As I remember, this calmed me down a bit and I caught some fish.
Being a Judge he had access to a prison and one near Brazoria had a great fishing pond. He and I went there about three times. It seemed I always ended up having to carry a small Outboard motor from the parking lot to the lake each time. I asked him why, and he said “when you are my age you will understand.”
The Story of Blondel the Minstrel and King Richard the Lionheart
There is a legend that when King Richard the Lionheart disappeared a faithful squire named Blondel the Minstrel went in search of him. As a wandering minstrel Blondel travelled for months over central Europe, vainly seeking for news of his friend, the King of England. At last one day, while singing one of Richard’s favorite songs near the walls of the castle where the king was confined, Blondel heard the song repeated from a window. Blondel the Minstrel recognized the voice of King Richard. From the window Richard told him to let the English people and the people of Europe know where he was confined, and Blondel the minstrel immediately went upon his mission.
Europe was astounded to learn that the brave King Richard of England, the great champion of Christendom, was imprisoned. The story of Blondel the Minstrel might not be true, but what is true is that England offered to ransom Richard, that the Pope interceded for him and that finally it was agreed that King Richard should be given up on the payment of a very large sum of money in the form of a ransom.
Many of the nobles and knights in Queen Eleanor’s Duchy of Aquitaine were troubadours. Queens Eleanor of Aquitaine ( Richard’s mother )and Queen Berengaria (Richard’s wife ) raised the ransom. King Richard came home in 1194, after a year and a half of captivity. His grateful thanks were given to his faithful friend Blondel the Minstrel.
Yesterday my good friend Maria Gunn sent me an article from the 9/14/2015 issue of The New Yorker. The article by John McPhee is called “Omission.” Maria has been good enough to give me feedback on a piece of mine. I warned her that the work needs cutting, and she sent me this apres pot article.
In making his point about the importance of lean writing, McPhee rightly mentions the man considered to be its greatest champion: Earnest Hemingway. McPhee quotes, “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above the water.”
Clearly Hemingway was influenced by his years as a journalist. Writing to the point is the point of journalism. But I wonder if Papa wasn’t influenced also by radio, arguably the dominant medium of his time. The sparely written radio dramas of the ’30’s and ’40s were very powerful. Witness the national hysteria over Orson Wells’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds. People who missed the disclaimer in the beginning tuned in to hear a string of fictional news casts about enormous alien war machines ravaging New Jersey. So terrifying were these terse accounts that a few people attempted suicide during the show, clear evidence of the power of omission.
I struggle with the complexity of the stories and the accessibility of language in my two novels. Will a young reader stumble on a word more common in the books of my own childhood than in hers? Will she finish a book with so many characters and twists?
The point I’ve come to is that while I certainly do not wish to confuse, bore or frustrate readers, I do hope to pass on some of the richness of detail I was fortunate enough to be exposed to not only in my early readings, but in my own childhood. My father, a character himself, devoured sea stories, and could quote Shakespeare and Walter Scott at the drop of the hat. My mother, a painter and poet, quoted the Romantic poets almost daily. My big sister Lalu is a marvelous storyteller herself and read me Thurber with a wicked giggle. My late sister Robin McCorquodale published several acclaimed books and sang mezzo soprano in New York. My brother Grainger Hunt sang rock-and-roll and played Henry IV on stage. My own literary influences were Shakespeare, Homer, Twain, Verne, Stevenson, Doyle, Wells, Hammett, Hellman, O’Brian, Chandler and McMurtry. I read them still.