Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Am I close?


What's altogether possible is that it's not a great novel. What makes me believe I can write a novel good enough to be published these days, when traditional publication has become so difficult? What prompts me to believe a story I create is interesting to anyone these days? 

I'm long past prime. No great career awaits me. No one's going to pick up my novel hoping that if this one isn't a winner, the next one will be. There may never be another.

Yesterday, editing this beast of a manuscript, I deleted a sentence that described wet roadside grasses shining in the early morning sun the way the spooled remains of a smashed cassette might. The sentence is gone. After all, who knows what audio tape even looks like anymore? I'm a creature from the black lagoon of yesterday, and there are any number of good reasons no one will take this manuscript.

Besides, technology has changed everything. A man left a voice mail yesterday, wondering again if I'd be interested in publishing with them, self-publishing; he's called several times and all I'd done was typed my name somewhere on their website. Publishing is terribly hard these days because it's become ridiculously easy.

What I'm saying is there may be a thousand reasons why this manuscript of mine will never get published--or, if it does, noticed. It would be wonderfully convenient to be able to blame it's never getting out of my computer on a single dastardly cause, but there may well be tons of reasons, including this one--the writer is a washed-up hack.

But sometimes I wonder if discrimination isn't a part of it. Sometimes I can't help thinking it's so because nobody really cares about a story set out here on the edge of nowhere, a region hemorrhaging population since the 1890s. rural America on the prairie. There's just not all that many of us out here. We're a demographic minority--rural white Midwestern evangelicals. 

So who gives a crap about a story that features people like me? Who wants to spend time in a novel that features no zombies or Amish women or crazed religious murderers, instead simply a novel about ordinary people way down there in fly-over country? Who cares? 

Marilynne Robinson can do it, and does, and has. I just finished Home, a novel that, like her Gideon, never leaves the same tiny Iowa town--and in the fifties. But I know Marilynne Robinson, I've met Marilynne Robinson, I've talked with Marilynne Robinson--and I'm not Marilynne Robinson. 

Still, there are times I've been marginalized. Who cares for us way out here? Certainly not Hollywood, unless it can create caricature, say a religious fanatic with a wood-chipper. We're banal and bigoted and beastly and can't see past the greasy bills of our feed caps.

What chance does this manuscript have in the real world, is something I ask myself. Easy: slim and none.

I'm trying as hard as I can to understand what happened  to all of us this week, specifically from my little acre out here on the edge of the Plains, trying not to drink away my misery because more than anything, what I feel is shame, shame that a banal bigot, a beastly bully is now readying himself to become to leader of the free world because we elected him. I don't understand that, and I'm trying. Help me.

I know people hate Crooked Hillary--I get that. And I understand that she represented a status quo millions disdain or don't trust and even fear. I get that too. I don't share that antipathy, but I get it. The Clintons were never my favorite people.

But why rural America, the rural Midwest, Christian rural Midwesterners to be precise (eighty-some percent of the evangelical vote chose Trump), would elect to the office of President a human being arrogant about his own arrogance, a flesh-pot gambler toting a string of wives and concubines as long as Solomon's, a chiseler who hasn't chipped a dime for schools or roads or military pensions in almost 20 years--why people follow him remains a profound mystery I'd love to understand.

The closest I can come from the depths of my own soul is that sneering anger I feel when I wonder whether anyone would ever read a novel set here, a novel about ordinary people in fly-over country. Sometimes, I'll admit it, I grow resentful because, dang it!--I exist, all right? I'm an old white male who's spent most of almost seventy years claiming to be an evangelical, never less so than now. I am the guy who elected Trump, people like me, people tired and angry about being overlooked.

Is that it? Is that the baggage I can claim? Is that what made thousands chant "Lock her up"? Am I coming close? 

I'm serious. Is that what so many millions feel, so many old evangelical white men from out in the country? 

I just don't know.

8 comments:

Dutchoven said...

Isn't it interesting...just a week or so ago the media indicated that a bunch of "backwoodsmen", rednecks none the less, would take up arms in revolt over the non-election of "King Trump"; yet today we see the "streets filled" in Clintonvilles with protesters who are screaming "not my president"; a wholly unlikely unholy scenario imagined by not one in the newsroom who celebrated a Hilary victory prematurely.

Is it not strange the folk who supposedly elected this improbable president, just went to work the next day because they had bills to pay, and couldn't or wouldn't take the day off to celebrate.

This whole event, which was once identified as the end of conservatism, is now identified as the end of liberalism as we know it. What do we really know?

Reach back and draw from the memory of a previous aftermath of an election were WWIII was to take place because we elected a novice Hollywood actor...what do we know?

Where is God everyone is crying as a bimbo brat mounts the podium, and for that matter what else? Could we really be wrong? God is here...and perhaps just not willing to see things the way we do.

I remember the AACS tussle at Dordt during our mutual years there, where was God then? I guess in the same place he is today; in control, and for what it is worth, that is best.

After all, we really muck things up when it comes to it. Sort of what a quote I read today suggests: "When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before."

That in the end seems to say volumes...

Anonymous said...

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Ron Polinder said...

Jim, you absolutely nailed it. The elites on the East and West coast, and urban areas, don't know us rural folks, nor do they much care about us blokes. That that is exactly what attracted so many to Trump. In that respect, Trump truly discovered the disaffection, to his credit.

To be sure, I did not vote for him, nor Hillary (wrote in Kasich), but with Dutchhoven, I marvel at how the tables turned. Instead of those wild eyed folks on the right raising trouble, it's those leftwingers crying F--- Donald Trump. What civility toward us who may lean to the right--and we are such haters, aren't we?

That is the medicine even you have to swallow good bother, you hick from Iowa. But be assured this hick from Lynden still cherishes your work, and appreciates your obedience to your calling.

ronvdm said...

JS, I share your angst.

Cathy Smith said...

Echoing Ron Polinder. I, too, cherish your work and appreciate your obedience to your calling! :-)

Brad said...

The wages of smug is Trump: http://www.vox.com/2016/4/21/11451378/smug-american-liberalism

pryorthoughts said...

Went from you piece to Wallace Stegner's essay, Born a Square. Perfect providential timing.

lynn__ said...

Some of us voted for Trump because we believe the right to life is fundamental and Hillary promised NOT to protect the most vulnerable among us, the unborn (including preborn women and minorities). She supports "reproductive rights" that have hurt women (physically, emotionally) and allowed men to take advantage without taking responsibility.

It's a shame that Hillary's husband has his share of affairs and "concubines" and doesn't treat women with any more respect than Trump. Yes, indeed, we the people in "flyover country" have spoken with our votes. But its not an election any of us can be particularly proud of.