CHARACTER: Crime Four

Last year I presented three lists describing crimes and criminal activities, derived from TV crime shows. Issues in this article arise from a crime show: Woman has wonderlust. She moves from place to place but no stop is perfect and satisfies her. She needs satisfaction not contentment or acceptability. She continues to look for the perfect location with perfect people. She meets different and more people. There are chemistry and magic someplace.

A person seeking something from the environment or from society has a tough row to hoe. Everything is life predicated on experience: Wise men learn by others’ harms; fools by their own. Or, Experience keeps a dear school, yet Fools will learn in no other. Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack. Our person relies on impulse, instinct and intuition, freely for the way forward but frequently is hurt or offended if someone is rude, questioning or dismissive. Yet ask whether our person is capable of love, or recognizes love apart from fondness, affection and attention.

Our person from the show was murdered in the same manner her mother was 25 years before. Picked up in a bar, taken into a forest, assaulted and killed. The murderers were easily caught. However, our person did not learn from experience, and there appeared no memory to let our person ponder, reflect or consider. This was a sorry, pathetic, weak and uneducated human being. What may be worse, our person may be lying to herself about herself.

How to breach the cycle relying in impulse, instinct and intuition? One ay, put something of substance into the person’s head. If she loves nature, educate her about forest lore, not the tripe James Fenimore Cooper recited but real things from education to survival skills. That education will change activities, the life, behavior, goals and aspirations.

DOWNTON FORELORN

For three seasons I’ve enjoyed Downton Abbey. Characters have ebbed and flowed, matured and changed. Characters had resilience. But I didn’t watch the series when it was broadcast last winter. I DVRed it to watch it all at once. I began peeking earlier this month. It was disappointing, and it was difficult to watch (3 1/2 programs).

The immediate problem were character, development during and after an incident and consistency with that prior character. I’ve watched these persons for three seasons, and bought those DVD discs. In the development of any character are experiences which guide (control) and influence future actions. That can be anticipated, unless actions are out of character. Now those characters are using training wheels.

The audience never saw the after-marriage story of Lady Mary and Matthew, complete devotion and final love. They saw mostly, the social and business transactions surrounding that marriage. Mary had told Matthew she is neither powder-puff nor pure, unlike his previous flu-ridden finance. The audience should expect experiences in Seasons 1-3 to make Mary tougher and mature.

But Lady Mary mourning for six months, reclusive and shunning people. Lady Mary loved Matthew, but she has suffered loss before: The cousin on the Titanic, the Turkish gentleman, and the newspaper publisher. Remember also, Matthew was almost lost in the war, to wounds and to another woman.  Loss or near loss are not new to Mary.

Rape of Anna: That is an attack on the institution of Downton Abbey. No other person better than Anna should appreciate that. The Bates experience with its connivings and near execution of Bates has taught her the power and influence of that institution. Mrs. Hughes as head housekeeper should know that, and not follow the spontaneous reaction of a woman so traumatized. This was a very poor story point to raise this issue.

Tom and and Lady Grantham’s maid. We have learned that Tom has a good, progressive business mind. He can change things in this area of England. In Season Three he purports to love his daughter, but in Season Four? He seems to toss it away for quick convenience, sullying his own name and marring the memory of his wife. It is hard to believe.

Lady Edith: She has had no character development. She is the same pathetic Edith. Hanging out with the card-shark newspaper man who will become a German citizen so he can divorce and marry Edith, she is the most consistent character in the series, but she is not worth watching.

So Downton Abbey,  I can no longer watch further episodes. I’ll let the people drift inexpertly toward another war with Germany without me.

HISTORY AND FICTION

bitch. cover

When I went to write Bitch. (iBookstore, michael ulin edwards), I was determined to make it autobiographical. I learned after three major drafts and a long process of 20 years, that autobiography was impossible. It would make a bad book. Some of the reasons can be found in Twentieth Century Journey, William L Shirer, vol. i, Preface; Autobiography of Mark Twain, U.C. Press, Berkeley, 2011, vol. 1, on writing memoirs/autobiography.

I was motivated to write the life and times of Berkeley, 1968-1973. While there I had forces coming at me. I determined they would best be represented by FIVE major characters, plus subsidiary characters folded into the stories of the FIVE. At that point the book could not be autobiographical; it could not be biographical. It could be history. Recount events as truthfully and accurately as I could, but the characters had to be representations. [Readers have commented that they know these characters.]

As much as I ran from place to place in Berkeley, observing and stuffing everything into my memory (which is not entirely why I almost flunked out my first year – I was also taking the wrong classes and my perspective on learning was horribly distorted), I could not tell the story of Berkeley with one character being everywhere at once: Peoples Park Riot Day, May 15, 1969 – in class on the north side of campus; in the riot itself; at the swimming pools in Strawberry Canyon; wandering around Dwinelle Hall. The FIVE characters and others were useful to convey what had to be said.

It is also impossible for a individual to tell his story when hormones, urges, the environment, economics are exerting influences affecting the person. What is the order? What is the priority? What is important? Those day to day, sometimes hour to hour or minute to minute considerations which may or do change affected human being senses – hear, see, smell, feel, taste – will shift the ground and upend any story.

If the reaction to life under those circumstances is the same, that makes for a dull human being. If the reaction to life under those circumstances whipsaws the human being into incapacity, he becomes confused and worthless. If the reaction causes the human being to take the brunt of it and react intelligently, predictably or making-do, that is the easier story to tell.

IMG

In 200,000 words I came up with the FIVE characters, two guys and three women, living and telling their lives (some aspects of my life) in Berkeley from September 1968 through the summer of 1973. They lived through riots, demonstrations, classes, drugs, life, city and academic events and state and national actions, all told within this novel. [There are 450 notes and a bibliography.]

Also, I could not tell my own story for a personal reason. Who could be truthful about being psychological creepy and sociology awkward then, (probably eccentric today) in a terrifying place. That doesn’t describe the discomfort, the violence and the shock of watching crap on the streets being played out and the acceptance of it by everyone in Berkeley. About 20 years ago I talked to someone I knew as a student. He tried to fit in and spoke the language as a student. His evaluation of those times upon meeting him again was reduced to one word: “Strange.” He didn’t want to talk about what he thought or was doing as a student, which was likely “creepy” and “weird.”

It seemed I was the only person who considered everything going on was strange, weird and ill for society. I may have been suited for a college campus in the 1920s, but I was stuck at Berkeley. I did not want to be a statistic and a loser: Someone told me when I entered that the average stay of a student at Berkeley was four quarters. (The University is much more mellow today which is why it is not a place of excellence.)

While a student at Berkeley, I didn’t like and actually detested loud music, drugs, and the recklessness of students, their lives a step from the street. Everything seemed reenforced by the citizens of Berkeley. Condemning this gross, communal lifestyle is a theme of Bitch.. Indeed, I dislike any communal styles, community standards, something my generation embraced and never let go of, and something which has been passed onto to their children and grandchildren: The collective.

We are not raising children today to be individuals, to think on their own. They are accepting, too much of collective action, group-think, the so-called common good. They have been taught, It Takes a Village – Collective actions are the bases of all advancement. Those are  wet dreams rolling from the Left of the Sixties and from Radical Feminism. (See Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex.)

Finally, I did not want to be like any of the FIVE. I put a lot of distance between myself and Berkeley. Not in the novel is: at the end of my Berkeley studies, I wanted to be a composer, but I had injured my left hand and couldn’t play the piano. I was lost to the activities I was prepared for. Law school intervened, but within ten years I had turned to writing.

This post is the second using the cover and the diagram (outline) that I have made. The subject is different because the text differs.

EDITION

A lifetime ago, longer as a writer, I wrote two novels: of Little Human Hearts and Bitch.. When I wanted them to be, neither were ready for publication. of Little Human Hearts is the first, and I’ll write about it here.

I self-published of Little Human Hearts, a story of the late 1950s in Mendocino County. A bright, intelligent eight-year-old boy has his first love affair with his third grade teacher and doesn’t know it. He tells the events of that school year.

I appreciated after self-publishing that the story was not ready. The text fit Mark Twain’s description: the spelling is “majestically lawless.” The word processing was done by a friend who cut and paste the same material twice to the same spot. I was impatient to get the book out and missed it and a whole bunch of other stuff.

The FIRST EDITION drew a review from the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Bruce Anderson: “ON SALE at Copy Plus is a book called “Little Human Hearts” by a youngish man named Karl Rauh. Mr. Rauh grew up in Anderson Valley in the late fifties. His book is based on events and personalities of the time, both in Anderson Valley and on the Mendocino Coast as seen through the eyes of an eight year old boy. I would think – based on my own quick reading – a number of the characters and episodes would be remembered by many old timers…”

I did not grow up in the Anderson Valley. I wrote the book, inserting characters into the setting and contriving events. I had no plausible marketing plan. I exhausted myself moving and trying to distribute the book to bookstores, some which didn’t pay after selling the inventory. I didn’t want to self publish again.

An opportunity came along. A new publisher was accepting submissions. of Little Human Hearts was accepted. I entered the text into word processing and caught a lot of mistakes, but not all. I made a few. Unknown to me the publisher italicized the jokes (humor) in the book. Rather than of Little…, the title became Of Little… The spelling was less lawless. The Second Edition was launched.

The characters were set; the setting was laid out, but the story. How did everything hang together, cogently? Was it coherent, at all? Unknown to me was a review by a reader on vacation, now appearing on Amazon: “This strange and curiously interestingly book I found tucked into the reading material of a Lake Tahoe hotel lobby. I wound up reading it for hours in that bed…Beneath the surface…are smoldering of adult trouble…It is very simply written, easy to skim quickly and yet it goes into such charming details…like hiking in a redwood forest, the sense of awe it inspires, the silence it brings to the visitors, all this he writes about with complete naiveté, like a child…Some readers may find the simplistic writing a bit annoying, but it is a valid style to convey the boy’s memories…”

This review indicates that I was able to advance the boy’s voice completely. But the story was wrong. The marketing of this edition was horrible. Not many people saw it. The First and Second Editions are online for sale at high prices.

In 2009 unprompted by me, the publisher relinquished all rights to of Little Human Hearts. I knew a Third Edition was necessary, but I had lost all feel for the book and the story. The setting was no longer attractive – Mendocino is cold, wet and humid. I’m a desert person – hot and dry. It took some concentration to contrive the energy to edit. What I brought were abilities to tell a story and better capacities to edit. I had to enter of Little Human Hearts into word processing again. While doing that I realized there were three sets of relationships – boy-teacher, boy-sibliings-other children, boy-parents. The emotional charges from one relationship had to enlarge, explicate, and  contrast with the other relationships for the book to develop and tell its story.

Along the way I believe I learned a few things: A daughter who talks to her father a lot, and he challenges her so she enjoys that engagement (female-male) is less likely to fall for the first creep who throws her a line. Next, children who squabble with siblings are doing what comes naturally: They emulate their parents; they strive for attention; they are learning to act and react within this small scale of society. The role of the parents are to limit certain activities and certain speech but never to end the squabbling.

I now sense that the emotional stimuli from the three relationships support and improve the story, allowing the reader to build and arrive at the denouement satisfactorily. I eliminated all the italics; no author needs a signpost saying, I’M TRYING TO BE FUNNY HERE! I was happy the Copyright Office gave me a copyright for the Third Edition, of Little Human Hearts, iBookstore, Michael Ulin Edwards.