Reading Thomas Pynchon’s “Bleeding Edge” – buckle your seatbelt

As someone who considers himself fairly well-read, I am simultaneously embarrassed and proud of myself – embarrassed that I had never read anything by Thomas Pynchon and proud that I have now made my way through his most recent novel. I’m also simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted. Tackling “Bleeding Edge” required enormous energy. I look forward to reading more of his work, but not for a while. I need time to recuperate.

For years, I’ve seen Pynchon’s name referenced as one of the writers most admired by other writers along with such titans as Alice Munro, George Saunders, David Mitchell, and Marilynne Robinson. How could I consider myself semi-literate if I hadn’t ever read him? So I plunged into his 2013 novel “Bleeding Edge.”

What a ride.

Within the first half-dozen pages, my jaw was dropping at the velocity of the robust narration and I was guffawing at the hilarious images, tweeting out gems of lines such as “Dizzy’s learning curve is permanently flat-lined.” And so many countless more along the way: “I have always depended on the kindness of stranglers” and “Maxine could conduct workshops in Conquering Eyeroll” and “‘I’m an adulteress!’ Vyrva wails quietly. ‘Ah, come on. Adolescentress, maybe’” and on and on and on.

But being delighted by the scrumptiousness of such snippets is like licking the peaks of whipped frosting not recognizing that they are perched on an enormous confectionary creation that defies thorough digestion by us ordinary mortals and whose recipe includes far more arsenic than sugar. Which is not to say that “Bleeding Edge” is indigestible but rather that you need to observe mother’s ordinance to chew each mouthful twenty times before attempting to swallow and that you should relinquish any hope of being able to fully clean your plate in one lifespan.

What is it about “Bleeding Edge” that makes reading it such a satisfying and draining endeavour? The vibrant characters whose innermost workings of brain, heart, and libido we think we grasp only to have them yanked out of our hands; the complex plot that reads like an amalgam of front page news, secretive espionage files, nineteenth century murder mysteries, and nearly impenetrable science fiction; the illusions running from quantum physics to pop culture icons; the ceaseless gyrations from identifiable New York City streetscapes to imaginative worlds of deep treacherous cyberspace.

I will read more Thomas Pynchon, once I catch my breath.

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For information on my most recent books, the memoir “August Farewell” and the novel “Searching for Gilead,” see my website at http://DavidGHallman.com

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In Praise of Tough Reads

I read Zadie Smith’s “NW” immediately after finishing Jonas Jonasson’s “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared.” The juxtaposition taught me something about my reading proclivities: I prefer books and authors that make me work.

Zadie Smith made me work. It was sometimes difficult to sort out the connection amongst the constellation of characters in “NW.” Standard formatting devices such as quotation marks around speech were often eschewed blurring the line between what was spoken out loud and what was internal monologue. The four parts of the novel were each structured differently: the first, “visitation,” had a typical format of numbered chapters; the second, “guest,” used borough designations to set off the chapters; the third and longest part, “host,” numbered not the chapters but each individual paragraph; and finally the fourth, reprised the title “visitation” and was essentially one relatively short chapter. But more challenging than these structural variations were the difficulties that I experienced in following the characters’ evolutions with the at-times convoluted plot. I had to be constantly attentive. I needed to reread sections or flip back to previous chapters. I did a great deal of highlighting of passages that I thought would help me follow the storyline.

And, bottom line, I was totally engaged. “NW” was not a fun, easy read. It was, by contrast, difficult. And I loved it. Like a great workout at the gym, Zadie Smith had the adrenalin pumping through my brain. And that left me satisfied in the same way that a rush of endorphins does.

As for “The 100-Year-Old Man…,” it’s probably sacrilege to say that I was bored. I know that the book has been immensely popular, as are others by Jonasson. And, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly bored. It was a fun story told by Jonasson with such an entertaining narrative style that the book carried me along effortlessly. Which is not to say that Jonasson’s writing is effortless. As a struggling fiction writer myself, I know how hard it is to write a text that has the fluidity of Jonasson’s work. But as for visceral satisfaction? For me, “The 100-Year-Old Man…” doesn’t come close to “NW.”

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Making Art from the Pain in One’s Personal Life

If Miriam Toews can write fiction about suicide in her own family, can I?

By coincidence, I finished reading Canadian prize-winning writer Miriam Toews’ newest novel “All My Puny Sorrows” on World Suicide Prevention Day.

As a “survivor of suicide” (a term used to refer to people who have lost a family member or close friend to suicide), I suppose I should have been aware of WSP Day, especially after all the publicity surrounding actor Robin Williams’ recent suicide. But I wasn’t. One tends to block out some things.

Miriam Toews is a gifted writer. Among her many accolades is the Governor General’s Award for Fiction that she won for her novel “A Complicated Kindness.” Toews brings those artistic skills to “All My Puny Sorrows.” But she also brings much more – her own family history.

Early in the story line of the novel, the father of Yolanda, the narrator, kills himself by jumping into the path of a speeding train. The focus of the plot is Yoli trying to prevent her sister Elfrieda from committing suicide. Elf, an internationally-acclaimed pianist, is as fragile as she is talented. Because of her internal demons, she has come to the conclusion that life is too painful to continue. Despite Yoli’s best efforts, Elf eventually succeeds. In Toews’ assured writing, “All My Puny Sorrows” melds excruciating sadness with subversive humour. The novel is a poignant, masterful, engaging read.

This is art imitating life. Miriam Toews’ father committed suicide. And so did her sister.

Was it scary for Toews to write about her sister’s death? She says that, once she got through the total immobilization that grief over her sister’s death caused, it was scarier not to write about it. She felt that she needed to address it head on. And she is a writer of fiction, so she wrote a piece of fiction.

I am a survivor of suicide. Rick, my younger brother, was only thirteen months younger than me and we grew up almost as if we had been twins. After retiring, he went into a deep depression and committed suicide. He killed himself a short six months before Bill my long-term gay lover died suddenly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I have written explicitly and in detail about Bill’s death in the memoir “August Farewell.” I mentioned Rick’s suicide briefly in “August Farewell.” In my novel “Searching for Gilead” which was published a year after the memoir, the brother of one of the main characters commits suicide. That was a conscious, albeit tangential, way for me to write about my brother’s suicide. At least it feels tangential, and totally inadequate. Increasingly, I experience the compelling need to write a piece of fiction that more explicitly addresses my brother’s death.

Why?

I suppose it would be cathartic. I guess that I hope it would help me “process” (god, I hate that word) the feelings of regret and guilt that I, like many survivors of suicide, experience. Perhaps, it could play some role in helping other people understand the devastating impacts of depression and grapple with the precursors and consequences of suicide for all concerned. Certainly my memoir “August Farewell” about my lover’s cancer death gave me some measure of relief having recorded our sacred end-of-life journey and many readers have expressed profound appreciation for it as an aid in helping them deal with their own issues of love and loss.

But my sense of compulsion to write fictionally about my brother’s suicide is more than just for these personal and public reasons. I have a strong sense that the creation of art in fiction can go to places that non-fiction narrative cannot, that living in the realm of the imagination unlocks chambers that otherwise wouldn’t be, that universals are liberated from the specifics.

At this point, I know not when and how and in what fictional genre I may attempt to tread some of the same territory that Miriam Toews has. But I feel the need to. Stay tuned.

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For information on Miriam Toews’ “All My Puny Sorrows”, see: http://amzn.to/1tNou01

For information on my writing, including my memoir “August Farewell” and my novel “Searching for Gilead”, see my author’s website at: http://DavidGHallman.com

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“Living a Vibrant Life” – Convocation Address

Living a Vibrant Life

David G. Hallman

Convocation Address on Reception of an Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree

from Victoria University in the University of Toronto

at the Victoria University Convocation/Emmanuel College Graduation

May 15, 2014

 

I deeply appreciate this recognition from Victoria University and I thank those responsible for it.

Jesus said, “I come that you might have life in all its abundance.”

If I had been an editor working with the writer of John’s Gospel, I might have suggested a few options for this line, such as, “I come that you might live life vibrantly, or exuberantly, or passionately.” In any case, that’s how I interpret John 10:10 – we’re being offered the opportunity, the gift, to live vibrantly.

For me, living a vibrant life has five dimensions:

Firstly, the vibrant life is expressed through engagement with community:

I had the great privilege to work for over thirty years within The United Church of Canada and the World Council of Churches—communities of faith that care about justice, about human rights, about the Earth.

  • As communities of faith, we spearheaded the Nestle Boycott to protest the unethical marketing practices of multinational companies that were promoting their infant formula in developing countries in ways that threatened the health and lives of babies;
  • As communities of faith, we fought for human rights and equality for all persons in church and society through initiatives that were at times controversial but ultimately transformative;
  • As communities of faith, we sounded the alarm on human-induced climate change seeing it as an ecological justice issue internationally and inter-generationally. We worked from local to global levels to reduce the causes and to support those most vulnerable to the impacts.

I invite you graduates and all of us to give thanks for the vibrant communities through which we can contribute to making our world a better place.

Secondly, vibrancy challenges us to live openly:

From early in life, I self-identified as gay and decided that I would try to live openly and honestly as a gay man.

In August 1976, I met my partner Bill. We fell in love and lived together for thirty-three years. Two weeks after we had first met, I took Bill as my date to a summer barbecue for United Church staff and their spouses. Our initial trepidation was quickly dispelled by the warm welcome from my colleagues.

And in 1993 after struggling to come to terms with a positive diagnosis from my doctor, I ultimately concluded that it was best for me to be open and honest about being a person-living-with-HIV.

I invite you graduates and all of us to reflect on the challenges and the opportunities for living openly and honestly as our authentic selves.

Thirdly, I’ve come to realize that living vibrantly requires confronting death:

Over a few short years, I accompanied in their final days of life my mother and father, Bill’s parents, Rick my younger brother who committed suicide, and Bill who died two weeks after being diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

I struggle with this cavalcade of losses and I’m grateful for communities of support. These experiences of death are affecting how I view issues of life such as the continuum of sociability and solitude, the role of memory, the Möbius strip of joy and despair, and the complexity of end-of-life options.

We all lose loved ones. I invite you graduates and all of us to ask ourselves how our experiences of death are impacting our perceptions of life.

Fourthly, the vibrant life is one of artistic expression:

The primary tool for me has been writing—books on ecological theology, the memoir “August Farewell” about Bill’s death and our life together, a novel “Searching for Gilead,” and my current writing project, a collection of short stories. The process of transforming ideas and images into words invigorates my mind and my spirit.

Music in many forms has also been a source of enrichment – be it through the lyric songs of Gordon Lightfoot, the riveting concerts of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, or the iconic vocals of Judy, Barbra, and Cher.

I invite you graduates and all of us to celebrate how the arts feed our souls.

Fifthly, and finally, I understand the vibrant life as living as a fully embodied spirit:

For me, this means trying to live life to the fullest—emotionally, intellectually, physically, sexually, and spiritually. It means pushing the limits; challenging ourselves, our institutions, our world; falling down and getting back up; crying and laughing; praying and singing.

I invite you graduates and all of us to rejoice in this creation that so vibrantly fuses body and spirit.

In our communities, in our openness, in our grief and pain, in our artistic expressions, in our embodied spirits, let us remember this assurance, that however vibrant or fractured our lives may be, we are not alone, we live in God’s world. Thanks be to God.

 * * *

Citation for David Grant Hallman for a Doctor of Divinity Degree

Victoria University, May 15, 2014

Delivered by Rev. Joan Wyatt

Chancellor Cecil, Chancellor Wilson, Principal Toulouse, Chairman Huyer
Members of the graduating class, Honoured guests, David Grant Hallman.

David Hallman grew up in Waterloo, Ontario and studied community psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University where he received an M.A. He also studied arts and culture at L’Université Paris-Sorbonne. David is the author of five works of non-fiction, all in the field of ethics and more recently, a memoir and a novel. He is recognized for his scholarly work as an environmental ethicist both through his work in the United Church of Canada (UCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC). It is my privilege to name some of the many accomplishments that resulted from David’s passionate commitment to issues of justice over an almost forty year career.

David began his career in the United Church in 1976 in a social justice portfolio with a focus on the needs and rights of disabled persons. This position quickly expanded to include the rights of children, criminal justice, French-English relations, and the AIDS crisis. In the spring of 1976, at the request of the United Church Department of Church in Society, he produced a submission to the Ontario Human Rights Commission arguing that the Human Rights Code should include protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — in accommodation, employment and services. David’s own courage to be “out of the closet” about his experiences as a gay man contributed to the dialogue in the Church about sexual orientation and the development of further policy and advocacy on human rights issues including equal marriage as well as empowering others to draw on his pastoral skills as they struggled with their own issues of sexual identity.

In the 1980s David’s responsibilities shifted to preparing resources and coordinating advocacy on environmental issues for the UCC. In 1988 he was seconded to the Climate Change Program of the World Council of Churches in Geneva to co-ordinate advocacy on global environmental issues with the United Nations. During this time his commitment and passion for the health, wellbeing and future viability of creation, coupled with his gifts for writing, research, public speaking and advocacy, helped to raise awareness in religious communities around the globe about the critical issues affecting environmental degradation. David published and offered leadership on many such issues, including climate change, acid rain, uranium mining, nuclear energy, toxic waste and the depletion of the ozone layer.

Since retirement and the death of his beloved partner William Conklin in 2009, David has turned his attention to the arts and to writing. Fearing that he might forget “the excruciating, intimate, heart-wrenching, spiritual, god-awful 16 days between diagnosis and death that were, at times, punctured by Bill’s uproarious sense of humour,” David wrote nonstop for six weeks. Originally intended only for his own reflection, August Farewell, a memoir of passion, love and loss was published to critical acclaim in 2011. In the fall of 2011 David’s first novel, Searching for Gilead, was released. When asked what gave inspiration for the novel David said:

Though writing August Farewell was cathartic, I still had — still do have — issues with which I’m struggling in my head and in my heart. So I decided to try and grapple with them through a work of fiction. That’s where the title comes from. I made a list of those issues, and they spelled out GILEAD: God and religion in general, injustice in the world, love and relationships, environmental crises, the arts, and death.

Like August Farewell, Searching for Gilead tells a love story that addresses significant human issues, including same-sex relationships.

When asked “what it is like now to experience unabated climate change when so much of your life was devoted to help avoid it?” David said, “I am suspended in a kind of existential grief, a grief that I have chosen to explore through differing layers of loss, through the arts.”

Continuing this exploration, David is currently working on a collection of interrelated short stories and, consistent with a life time of research, he is currently “slaking his thirst” on “the good writing of others.” An avid social media aficionado, you can check out David’s reading experiences on his blog, follow him on Twitter, enjoy his “this day in history” entries on Facebook, and explore his website at http://DavidGHallman.com. Consistent with a lifelong commitment to action, not just words, David currently co-chairs the Maestro’s Club Ambassadors, a team of volunteers that work to build long-term donor relationships for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He also continues his role as a lay leader at Saint Luke’s United Church, Toronto, a vibrant, intercultural family of faith.

David Grant Hallman has exercised a ministry that integrates his personhood, his considerable intellect, his passion for justice, and his questions of what it means to be human. He not only has contributed significant ministry leadership in Canada and in our world, but also has modelled how to continue the journey in new ways, still pursuing significant questions and passions, still contributing and publishing and inviting others into the search for Gilead.

With great delight, Chancellor Cecil, I now present to you, David Grant Hallman and I request that you confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

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Honorary Doctor of Sacred Letters degrees were bestowed at this same Convocation on respected English literature scholar Dr. Alexandra Ferguson Johnston and Canadian folksinging legend Gordon M. Lightfoot.

The three of us are pictured below from left to right: myself, Alexandra Johnston and Gordon Lightfoot.

Image

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Daring To… A Reflection on Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”

The gripping storyline and the deftly-drawn characters of Donna Tartt’s monumental and thoroughly engaging “The Goldfinch” raise three profound issues for me that are all linked by the question of moral agency—our ability or inability to make critical decisions.

Tartt summarizes each of these issues in the concluding pages of the book.

The first is about the trustworthiness of our hearts as a guide to decision-making:

“What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted—? What if the heart, for its unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?”

At the stage of life in which I find myself and after the series of personal losses that I have experienced in the recent past, the gamble to follow my heart wherever it may lead is immensely attractive—indeed, seductively, compellingly attractive. I ask myself, what have I got to lose? And even though the answer to that question points to material or reputational losses that are not insignificant, they pale in comparison to what I might possibly gain in exhilaration, if even for the fleeting moment of a beautiful flare.

So, to make decisions based on the heart as untrustworthy as that heart might be, leads to the second of the issues that “The Goldfinch” raises for me. Theo Decker, Tartt’s narrator and principal character, asks:

“…does it make any sense at all to know that it ends badly for all of us, even the happiest of us, and that we all lose everything that matters in the end—and yet to know as well, despite all this, as cruelly as the game is stacked, that it’s still possible to play it with a kind of joy?”

To play the game with a kind of joy…I like how Tartt has phrased this. I read it as a clear-eyed affirmation devoid of guile or cynicism or sentimentality.  It’s a laugh-in-the-face of the hell that life can be.

The third issue with which I resonate strongly is when Theo comes to the conclusion that:

“…as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”

Life is never going to be fully comprehendible, and if we think it is, then we’re either arrogant in our rationalism or deaf to nuance. It is certainly simpler to live in a black-white world that we construct socially and/or conceptually. I don’t deny that blandness has its attractions. It takes much less energy to live there. But think of all those rainbow colours that one would miss.

And so, with gratitude to Donna Tartt for penning such a captivating and thought-provoking novel, I find myself echoing Theo’s affirmation:

“…And just as music is the space between notes, just as the stars are beautiful because of the space between them, just as the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of color across the sky—so the space were I exist, and want to keep existing, and to be frank I hope to die in, is exactly this middle distance: where despair struck pure otherness and created something sublime.”

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For more information on Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” see: http://amzn.to/1eVc4Lr

For information on my memoir “August Farewell” and my novel “Searching for Gilead,” see my website at http://DavidGHallman.com

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Solitude, by choice

The Guardian newspaper recently published an article by novelist and short story writer Sara Maitland in which she analyses why, in this era that celebrates individualism, there is simultaneously a fear among so many people about being alone and a social suspicion of those who intentionally choose to live in solitude.

Maitland’s arguments resonate with me and her choice to live in solitude reflects my own situation. Reading the article, I found it reassuring that I was not alone in wanting to be alone.

We never know ourselves perfectly. But to the extent that I am rationally self-aware of my needs, interests, and priorities (as opposed to being self-delusional), I can identify three factors that ground my desire to live, more or less, a solitary life.

The starting point for this solitude-by-choice for me is the loss of my long-term partner and the consequential mourning of that loss. Bill and I were together for thirty-three wonderful years as a gay couple. He was unexpectedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2009 and died two weeks later. The trauma of his death and the exhilaration of our life together are described in my memoir “August Farewell.” Everyone deals with the loss of a loved one in his or her own way. My way has been to delve deeply into the profoundness of that loss, to celebrate the love and life that Bill and I shared and face up to the searing reality that that life is over, and to tackle the challenge of reinventing myself as a person without him.

The second factor for choosing solitude grows out of my strategies for dealing with the loss of Bill. Immediately after his death, I wrote the memoir “August Farewell” in order to record for myself the details of those incredible two weeks between his diagnosis and his death. I had written books during my professional career so writing came somewhat naturally to me in this point of crisis. Writing “August Farewell” proved to be cathartic  and a means to capture forever for myself so many precious memories that would inevitably have dissipated over time. Still struggling with existential issues prompted by his death, I decided to follow-up the memoir by exploring these issues through the genre of fiction. And so I began writing a novel, “Searching for Gilead”, which was published two years after “August Farewell.” I enjoyed the writing of the memoir and the novel as intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and artistic outlets, and consequently set myself the challenge of pushing the envelop further by tackling another non-fiction genre: the short story. I am now in the process of writing a collection of inter-related short stories, a task that I expect will occupy me for the next several years.

All of which is to say that the process of writing prompted by Bill’s death has led me quite unexpectedly into a new self-identity. I now think of myself as an author. It is what I do. It is who I am. And in order to do what I do and be who I am, I require solitude. I need substantial quality time to write.

Which brings me to the third factor that is propelling me at this point of my life to choose solitude. Paradoxically, I need to be alone in order to commune at the deepest levels with the artistic souls from whom I gain the greatest solace and nurture: writers, playwrights, visual artists, composers and musicians. I read a great deal of literature, primarily fiction, and write personal reflections/blogs on those that move me the most. For that reading and responding, I need to be alone. I go to art exhibitions often alone so that I can indulge myself with the art uninhibited by social interactions. I attend a great many musical and theatrical events, opera, and ballet but primarily classical concerts. I have become involved as a patron and volunteer with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and even though in that capacity and at those concerts I am interacting with many people, the essence of my experience is being engrossed in the music sitting quietly and alone, letting the music wash over me, engaging with it almost transcendentally.

Sara Maitland in her article in the Guardian anticipates the critiques that people would make of her decision to live a life of solitude and she responds to those critiques. I will let her analysis speak to those who may also raise questions about my comparable decision.

At this time in my life and to the extent that I know my own head and heart, I place myself in Maitland’s company—living a life of solitude, by choice.

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To read, Sara Maitland’s excellent article in the Guardian, see: http://bit.ly/1hmmDGZ

For information on my memoir “August Farewell” and my novel “Searching for Gilead”, see my website at http://DavidGHallman.com

To read my personal reflections on books that I read, see my blog at https://davidghallman.wordpress.com or my Goodreads site at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4802765.David_G_Hallman

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Fifty Greys of Genre – Karl Ove Knausgaard’s category-defying “A Death in the Family”

I’m intrigued these days by the malleable borders between different genres of writing and even more so by the creation of literary works that seem to carve out a form distinct from the usually accepted categories of writing. My fascination with the ways in which historical reality and fabrications of the imagination intertwine is prompted in equal measure by the books of other authors that I am reading and by what I am writing myself.

The current case-in-point is Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “A Death in the Family” which was a publishing phenomenon initially in Knausgaard’s native Norway and more recently in many other countries as well. Google Knausgaard or “A Death in the Family” and one finds innumerable articles, interviews, and debates about the controversy of how Knausgaard used the most intimate details of his family’s life to craft a total of six autobiographical novels, of which “A Death in the Family” is the first published in English. The use of real life characters in his family depicted with all their human frailties has led to intense criticism by members of his family that has spilled over into the public press and certainly increased the profile of and sales for the books.

All of us authors draw on our personal experiences to varying degrees. Eminent mystery crime novelist P. D. James, in offering advice to other writers, has said, “You absolutely should write about what you know…all experience, whether it is painful or whether it is happy is somehow stored up and sooner or later it’s used.”

I won’t debate here the ethics of Knausgaard’s use of very personal family material, largely without their permission, in the creation of “A Death in the Family.” What I am more interested in is how we understand the nature of the product—that is, is it an “autobiography” or is it a “novel?” On the one hand, one could say why bother asking the question? If it’s a good piece of writing—and for the most part I’d say “A Death in the Family” is a brilliant piece of writing—it doesn’t matter what genre label we attach to it. But on the other hand, that leaves me unsatisfied because I’m trying to understand better the workings of the creative artistic process. We who write fiction create characters, plots, and dialogue out of our imagination. They’re not real. That’s why we call it fiction. But the mind out of which these imagined stories emerge is the same mind that has experienced and remembers a wealth of situations that provide much of the raw material for the imagination to work with.

I’m living into that grey area between various genres in my own writing. During my professional working career, I wrote non-fictional academic books. Then after my lover died suddenly of pancreatic cancer, I wrote “August Farewell,” a memoir of the two weeks between his diagnosis and his death and integrated into it vignettes from our thirty-three years together as a gay couple. It was obviously, and intentionally, autobiographical. I followed that up with my first piece of fiction, the novel “Searching for Gilead,” which was very largely a product of my imagination but still drew upon my personal and professional history. Now I’m at work on a collection of short stories. They are considerably more distant from my own life experiences than was the novel but they still occupy an ambiguous terrain. There may not be as many discernible links to specific people and situations in my history but they emerge out of an internal energy field of what I find aesthetically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually compelling. Their genesis is in some sense coming from an even deeper place of “what I know (or think I know)” than the more identifiable facts of personal history.

All of which goes to say that I’m having a great time with what I’m reading and what I’m writing. I love finding myself immersed in and stimulated by the grey areas in between various genres.

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For information on Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “A Death in the Family,” see: http://amzn.to/1hAJTEp

For information on my memoir “August Farewell” and my novel “Searching for Gilead,” see my website at http://DavidGHallman.com

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