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Monday, January 28, 2013

The Old Town

I sat down not too long ago and finally wrote a short story that'd been festering in me for quite some time, years really. As I am likely to do these days, I wrote it all out in one go. It's based on the National song, "Lemonworld," and the story shares the title with the song. I feel like it might be the best short story I've ever written. Maybe it isn't. I'll let "the market" decide.

I've written three short stories in the span of four months, which makes the latter half of 2012 one of the most prodigious periods of my short story writing career. None of these stories have been accepted yet, though I suppose I'm not pushing very hard either. I now have six shorts that remain unpublished, and with the exception of one, I really like them all. I'm beginning to wonder if I should look instead for someone to publish a collection. A short story collection with my name on it sounds like a joke, honestly, but maybe that's where this is headed. Or maybe all these stories suck and they haven't been published because I'm a crappy short story writer and no one wants to publish them.

That's a definite possibility, too.

I went to California last minute to visit my grandma who is doing very badly. It was very emotional, but I don't really want to get into it here. I'm telling you about the trip mainly because I finally got to see Lincoln and Argo. They were both very good movies, though I found Lincoln to be strangely depressing. I found it hard to be too happy for all these men who spent their lives fighting for the abolition of slavery, knowing full well that blacks would neither be able to vote nor have anything resembling equal rights for a full century and quarter after the passing of the 14th amendment. I saw the tears in these men's eyes as they saw the culmination of years, and I could not join them because I knew that what they thought was a culmination was just the passing of one hurdle and the beginning of another, longer race.

It makes you think about your own life, and what is possible, and what you can possibly do to make a lasting impression. It's a difficult thing to do. Time is like waves licking at the shore. No matter how hard you try to leave your footprints in the sand, the water just washes it away. Even supposed great men don't make much lasting impressions. The conquering work of Alexander was practically undone by the time his grandchildren were adults. All that bickering of our founding fathers, which they thought they settled in 1787 with the signing of the Constitution, would come unglued just one generation later, the Federalist papers burned in cannon fire.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but...

I was gonna write more, but this seems like a good place to end.

I'm not sure what the answer is.


Albert Camus Quotes said...

A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
Albert Camus

Houston said...

Well, Tres, you might feel better knowing that it was just a movie. And the tears were movie tears. They never really happened. And, as has been noted several times (most recently on NPR), the portrayal of Lincoln's adamant insistence on the abolition of slavery in any terms other than an act of war (The Proclamation) was EXTREMELY exaggerated, if not an outright lie.

No doubt, Lincoln wished for the abolition of slavery on a moral level. And no doubt, many in his cabinet felt the same way (although to varying degrees). But let's be historically honest. Abolition was not Lincoln's main goal. His main issue was preservation of the Union. It was to him what health care reform is to President Obama. Abolition was to Lincoln what gay marriage is to Obama...something to strive for in due time, but only after the higher priority is taken care of.

Lincoln himself said to Horace Greeley, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union."

Hardly the words of a man who believed in abolition at all cost. That was certainly not the Lincoln portrayed by Spielberg. It was the real Abraham Lincoln...a great man and perhaps our greatest President, but not "The Great Emancipator" he is credited as being. The Lincoln portrayed by Spielberg is the on-screen manifestation of one of a multitude of lies Americans tell themselves to convince ourselves of our own righteousness. So if you need to be sad, be sad about that.