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.

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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.

Bitch. – Third Edition

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The purpose of my novel, Bitch., a period not a dot, a verb not a noun, puts the reader on the ground as a student at the University of California at Berkeley in September 1968 and carries through June 1973. It is 200,000 words.

There are loads of details – historical, fictional, contrived. First Edition, First printing was in 2000 – footnotes, bibliography, index and lexicon (words of the Sixties plus sources) e.g. “bummers” came from neither the Hells Angels nor the hippies. In 1864 the scavengers of Sherman’s Army on the March to the Sea through Georgia were known as bummers.

First Edtion, Second Printing is a reediting of the First Printing. Corrected are typos, less “majestically lawless.” In the First Printing one page has one word on it. The Second Printing has fewer obstacles to get to the purpose of the novel than the First Printing.

Before writing and during writing I did extensive research. I was dismayed when bookstores around the University closed in Berkeley: Seven in ten years. Some libraries closed and deprived me of sources. The Undergraduate Library was remodeled and its collection was reduced at least 50 percent. When I arrived to write, the campus had not changed much. I was able to write from memory, research and setting as they had been for decades.

The primary change between the First Printing and the Second was to the name of a character. I was using a pseudonym, Karl Rauh. In German “rauh” means abrupt, rude, sharp, and there was nothing about my writing that was polite, gentle or soft. Bitch. retains the edge of the attack. But I had named a character in the story, Karl Rauh, and a reader who believed she knew characters in the book, observed there was a problem with voices: author/character. I considered that point and took the quickest remedy: I changed the character’s name.

After the Second Printing was published, I was in the City of Berkeley Library Book Store. Someone had brought in loads of boxes filled with Sociology from the Sixties and Seventies. I realized I had a large source of books I had not seen. I bought and began reading, and more out of bookstores and from libraries, perhaps 1000 books. I had 50-100 pages of notes and additions to the text of Bitch.. For instance a little item: I met a woman who would only date on a Dutch treat basis. In a source I found a teenage girl who would only go Dutch treat because she didn’t like the feeling of being “rented” for the evening. That source is end-noted in the Third Edition.

Unprompted by me in 2009 the publisher of the Second Printing relinquished all rights to Bitch.. I was unhappy with the Second Printing because of the errors and its incomplete research and the many references I had overlooked and now made. Scanning the book into word processing would be a complete disservice to me as a writer and to the text which wasn’t perfect. The idea of retyping a manuscript of that length raises NOT the question, Do I want to read this again? Instead, the question becomes, Do I want to type this again? There were words, sentences and paragraphs to insert or move someplace else. Text to add and stuff to delete, and it was all possible because I read the text at 15-20 words a minute, my typing speed. Along the way I was able to reenter the book into my memory, and was able to play with it. I rounded out characters; I made paragraphs complete thoughts; I made the story full, inserting another 10-15,000 words. I added to endnote texts, and I added 90 note references.

[When one is writing about the Sixties and early Seventies, it is good to get facts, thoughts and impressions correct. Many memoirs and recountings are so highly edited to make the representations of those texts farcical and those texts wholly dishonest. Inserting the notes to sources and newspapers of those times at least tell the facts as they occurred. It is difficult for a once famous “personage” of those times to support his fantasies as he likes to remember them today and not as they happened. Many of those people like to write about their feelings. Hence the endnotes and the bibliography in Bitch..]

Under my name, michael ulin edwards, [I jettisoned the pseudonym],I received a copyright for the Third Edition of Bitch., iBookstore. It is the ghost edition. There are no graphics. There is an improved lexicon and bibliography but no index. Epublishing would not support the index. Unfortunately, there is no search function in Epublishing.

Editing a manuscript I believed once perfect was daunting and annoying, and in the end I was grateful. The text needed a sever reading. I learned how to do that. It is a much different mindset than writing, and different from proofreading. When a writer proofs, he accepts the text and makes small changes. But reediting – sentences, phrases, clauses, paragraphs – does not accept the text as it is. The mindset is to deconstruct. Reediting reinvents the text so words do their best work.

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Just a note about writing Bitch.. The more words the more complicated the writing, the organization and the interactions and interface of stories, characters and settings. Before writing I determined there would be five major characters, the names are capitalized in each circle. One subsidiary character, “Ellen,” is mentioned. Not all the characters would have the same experiences, but like many young people during the Sixties and early Seventies, they had shared experiences. Those experiences were by direct participation or vicarious knowledge, because many occurrences during those years had a lot of fallout [unlike today where experiences tend to shut and tie-off]. Once I accepted this organization, the only diagram (“outline”) I made, the text was a matter of writing the stories of each character and how they mixed.

Always paramount was a driving theme found in Lee’s circle: Characters were looking for love in a loveless society.