Thursday, March 8, 2012

Continuing Sunshine, Hemingway Re-Redux

Sunday, March 04, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Beautiful day today, eighty-something degrees and bright sunny skies. I went for a bike ride along the beach path and then for a walk on the beach, from near where the bike path ends out to the end of the peninsula and back. Actually we’ve had great weather for the last few days and on each of them I road and walked along the beach. It’s been nice to warm my bones and get a little color to my skin (I don’t feel like myself when I’m winter pale). Supposedly this weather is going to hold for a couple more days, cool off for a couple of days, and then warm up again. Oh the hardships of a Southern California winter!

Despite the nice weather, I’ve been getting a fair bit done in recent days. I’m almost caught up on my school work and I’ve been writing as well. I’ve started a second story for Sunshine Seas, which I’m so far calling “Off Lombok,” because it takes place on a little island off the larger Indonesian island of Lombok. It’s s shorty—it will probably only come out to five or so pages—and is definitely not a major piece, but it’s fun to write and is allowing me to explore, in a small way, writing about a part of the world I’ve never written about before, which I’m finding interesting.

On the subject of literature, I put my Ray Bradbury re-examination on hold and instead have been reading Hemingway’s Garden of Eden. It’s unlike anything else of his I’ve read. It’s a novel about a three-way love affair between a young, increasingly successful writer, his impetuous equally young wife and a young woman they meet while vacationing in southern Europe. The story is interesting, but I’m finding myself paying less attention to it than the way Hemingway writes. Like a lot of aspiring American writers I went thru a Hemingway phase when I was younger, but I’m now wondering if I truly understood him, as a stylist. His simple, flat prose is truly beautiful, and unique (which is why he’s so easily parodied). I can see now that it has influenced me, if in no other way than I too strive for my own kind of simplicity, which have some roots in reading him so young. There’s also a painterly aspect to his writing I’ve never really appreciated until reading this book (there’s something vaguely Cezanne-like in his colors and technique), which, as I’ve mentioned continually here, is something I long to attain. However, I can also now see a fundamental difference between his work and mine—his detachment.

There’s calmness to his writing that comes from his ability to stand outside of even his most autobiographical work. I can’t do that—I’m in the thick of everything I do on the page. In this sense, we’re coming at everything from the opposite direction. This realization is really helping me to understand my own work, my limitations and strengths, and it really makes me want to go deeper into my art by doing a serious study of Hemingway’s writing (I tried to revisit him a while back, but I don’t think I was quite in the right place then). The Irvine Valley College Library has a ton of his stuff on their shelves. I see myself digging deeply into this collection very soon.

Feeling great overall these days, free and relaxed. I’ve decided for sure that I don’t want the Irvine job. I’ve also decided that I’m done with the L.A. Basin, which is something that’s been coming to a head for a while in me. The stress and expense of this place for me are finally outweighing all of its good aspects. Heading to Cal State Channel Islands is sounding really good to me right now (I exchanged a few emails with the professor there I want to work with and got some very positive feedback). If that doesn’t work out I’ll be going somewhere else within the next year or so. This area used to be a place of promise, but it’s best days now seem long behind it. The bioregionalist in me says stay put, but I know I’ve already done everything I can here, that L.A. can never give me enough in return. So to where? Ventura probably. And if not there? Crete? Florida? The South Seas? I’m open to all sorts of possibilities.

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