Monthly Archives: March 2012

How to celebrate your dead lover’s birthday.

Bill’s birthday is coming up in a few days. We were together thirty-three years as a couple. I organized thirty-three birthday celebrations for him. Then he died of cancer. Now I’m at a loss, in so many ways, one of which is what to do when his birthday rolls around. So, I’m brainstorming ideas.

Your suggestions would be welcomed.

Here are options that I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Buy the most expensive gift he always wanted but I was too stingy to buy for him while he was alive.
  3. Cry all day.
  4.  Bake his favourite type of birthday cake and then eat it all myself.
  5. Bake his favourite type of birthday cake and then invite all his friends over to share it (except he had far too many friends to accommodate in our condo).
  6. Bake his favourite type of birthday cake and then hand out pieces on the street to complete strangers.
  7. Hire a skywriting plane to spell out “Happy Birthday, my darling” (except if he’s in heaven looking down, wouldn’t the lettering appear backwards?)
  8. Go out and find a new lover and pretend that he’s Bill.
  9. Go out and find a new lover and pretend that he’s Bill’s birthday present to me.
  10. Write a celebratory memoir about our thirty-three years together (oh yeah, I already did that.)
  11. Fill our condo with his favourite colour flowers (purple) to thank him for the wonderful years we shared.
  12. Fill our condo with his least favourite colour flowers (yellow) to spite him for dying way too early.
  13. Play his favourite music all day and then respond accordingly (cf. #3 above).
  14. Play his least favourite music all day in hopes of provoking him to return to switch it off.
  15. Use his life insurance payout to buy an expensive Armani black suit and wear it all day as my widow’s weeds.
  16. Use his life insurance payout to buy food for starving children in Africa.
  17. Figure out why he had never gotten life insurance.
  18. Spend the day looking through all our old picture albums and respond accordingly (cf. #3 above).
  19. Book a daylong session with a therapist.
  20. Book a daylong session with a hunky masseur.
  21. Ask other widows and widowers how they handle their dead lover’s birthday (what a good idea for a blog).
  22. Tell others in relationships to treasure their partner and be sure as hell not to forget their birthday.
  23. Ask others who are not in a relationship what they think they would do for a birthday celebration if they had a lover.
  24. Ask others who are not in a relationship if they’d like to be in relationship with me (use as an inducement my stellar history in celebrating my lover’s birthday).
  25. All of the above and then respond accordingly (cf. #3 above). 

Bill and I relaxing together after celebrating one of his birthdays many years ago:

Bill_and_david_at_lee_house_1992

My memoir “August Farewell” tells the story of the two weeks between my partner Bill’s diagnosis with pancreatic cancer and his death. Interspersed among the scenes are vignettes from our thirty-three years together as a gay couple.

Information on “August Farewell” and on my novel “Searching for Gilead”, including YouTube video book trailers on each, is available on my website at http://DavidGHallman.com

Both the memoir and the novel are available for order from your local bookseller or on-line retailers including http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://amazon.ca, http://chapters.indigo.ca, http://amazon.co.uk

 

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“Hugo” and me – the joy of an artistic coincidence

Coincidences occur in all our lives. On occasion, they are dramatic or mystical and radically change our path. At other times, they are quite prosaic and almost go unnoticed. 

And then there are those delightful surprises when a convergence occurs out of the blue and, though it carries no great import, we nevertheless pause and our smile says “how cool is that!”

Such was the case for me recently when the Oscar-winning movie “Hugo” intersected with a short story of mine.

With a memoir “August Farewell” and a novel “Searching for Gilead” now out in the hands of readers, I’ve started on a new writing project—a collection of inter-related short stories.

The initial one that I have completedthe first draft, that isis something of a character study of a young man who immerses himself in the puissant intellectual environment of one of the great libraries of the world. In the story, entitled “La Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève,” I describe in detail the imposing interior of the building and the impact of the sunlight cascading in through the massive windows.

Eons ago, I spent a year as a young student in Paris and virtually lived in la Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, just a few steps from the Sorbonne.  The picture below, taken by my anxious parents, shows a nerdish me backpacked and ready to head off on my youthful year-in-Europe. The staging of the photo with me consulting the map was intended to evoke adventure. It now embarrasses me, as if the caption might read “how do I get to the airport?”

1d_-_davids_europe_adventure_1969

A few months ago, at a session of the writing group that I attend, I met Demetri Portelli who was the 3D stereographer on the movie “Hugo” working with the director Martin Scorsese and the cinematographer Robert Richardson. Demetri is a friend of Joaquin Kuhn, our writing group’s coordinator, and he happened to be at our meeting the week when the Academy Award nominations were announced. We celebrated with Demetri the many nominations that “Hugo” had received.

I put “Hugo” on my list of movies to see.

At a subsequent writing group session, the focus of the discussion was on my short story with the group members giving me wonderfully helpful feedback. A few days later, Joaquin watched “Hugo” with his grandchildren and promptly emailed Demetri and me, letting me know that la Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève is one of the settings in the movie. He told us that the film came to life for him in a new way because he had been there through my story, and my story came to life in a new way because he was actually seeing what had been presented to him earlier in words.

Demetri responded telling us that it was primarily this library that brought Martin Scorsese to shoot in Paris. Demetri found it a magical place with the space and the natural light making it so special in the film. He called it a jewel in the city of Paris.

He is right. It is that jewel that bewitched me as a young student forty odd years ago and it is that jewel that I had chosen as the setting for my short story.

Needless to say, I promptly made my way to the theatre to see “Hugo.” In addition to the stunning visual effects, I found the story itself deeply moving in many ways, not least of which as a testament to the importance of the arts in our lives.

I now have in my hands and have begun reading the book that inspired the film, a beautifully published version of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret, A Novel in Words and Pictures” by Brian Selznick.

La Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in my short story and in “Hugo” – an artistic coincidence that makes me smile and think “how cool is that!”

P.S. “Hugo” won the 2012 Oscar for Cinematography.

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Some of my earlier posts also use films as the starting point for reflection. Scrolling back through my blog you can find posts based on “The Iron Lady,” “The Descendants,” and “Midnight in Paris.”

* * *

My memoir “August Farewell” tells the story of the two weeks between my partner’s diagnosis with pancreatic cancer and his death. Interspersed among the scenes are vignettes from our thirty-three years together as a gay couple.

Information on “August Farewell” and on my novel “Searching for Gilead,” including YouTube video book trailers on each, is available on my website at http://DavidGHallman.com

Both the memoir and the novel are available for order from your local bookseller or on-line retailers including http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://amazon.ca, http://chapters.indigo.ca, http://amazon.co.uk

 

 

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A writer’s challenge – criticism to early drafts

At a session of the International Festival of Authors in Toronto several years ago when I was more naïve and less experienced as a fiction writer, I challenged an author on a panel who was talking about all the revisions she did after negative feedback from readers to an early draft of hers. I said, “But isn’t what is important that you are true to your own voice, whatever others may think?” 

She replied, “But if what I’ve written doesn’t communicate with the reader, what’s the point?”

To which I responded, “The point is we write primarily for ourselves. At least, I do.”

I was speaking out of the context of having written a very personal memoir “August Farewell” that initially I had no intention of publishing and being in the midst of writing my first novel “Searching for Gilead” that was also precipitated by personal and systemic issues that I wanted to tackle.

Well, now I’m at a point where I agree with Lao-Tse, “The more you know, the less you understand.” Meaning, the more I’ve written and published, the more confused I’ve become.

My current dilemma is in relation to a collection of inter-related short stories that I’ve begun. I finished the first one and sent it out to a few friends to read. I’ve gotten mixed responses. One person, who is an editor by profession, said, “But nothing happens in it.” A second friend, an avid reader, said, “I just didn’t connect with the main character.”

However, a third wrote me, “What stays with me a few days later is the feeling of intense passion that is conveyed by the story…I identify personally with the feeling behind the words, but I also think they have enduring and universal appeal… a very successful writing project.”

The short story in question is intended much more as a character study than an action thriller. And I happen to like it pretty much as it is. It speaks to me.

Though the creative satisfaction is by far my principal motivation for writing, I’m no longer in the place where I am writing just for myself. My life has been immensely enriched by the touching reader feedback that I have received to “August Farewell.” I’m learning a great deal from the responses that I’m getting to “Searching for Gilead.” The author-reader dialogue in person and through social media such as Twitter and Facebook is a big part of my life now.

I want to be as fine a writer as I can be which suggests that I have much to learn from feedback. But, I also want to be authentic to my own voice and not tailor my writing to the expectations and tastes of others.

How do you resolve this dilemma in your writing?

* * *

My memoir “August Farewell” tells the story of the two weeks between my partner’s diagnosis with pancreatic cancer and his death. Interspersed among the scenes are vignettes from our thirty-three years together as a gay couple.

Information on “August Farewell” and on my novel “Searching for Gilead”, including YouTube video book trailers on each, is available on my website at http://DavidGHallman.com

Both the memoir and the novel are available for order from your local bookseller or on-line retailers including http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://amazon.ca, http://chapters.indigo.ca, http://amazon.co.uk

 

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