A BIT MORE ON HIPPIE LIT

One of my lingering questions wonders why the intensity of the hippie experience didn’t flower more fully in fiction.

Yes, I know hippies were considered “laid back” and “mellow,” but that’s only part of the picture. A lot of what we felt was indeed incredible and new. Yet while the music of the era gives both lyrics and a soundtrack to the late ’60s and early ’70s, the literary parallel runs thin. Most of the prose is in the non-fiction side of the aisle – memoir, especially, and sociology – works like Barry Miles’ Hippie. Within that flourished a range of small publishing operations, such as Straight Arrow Books and Ten-Speed Press.

But novels are another matter.

As I’ve already noted, Richard Brautigan and Gurney Norman (Divine Right’s Trip) did give wondrous voice to the action. Add to that Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey, T.C. Boyle’s Drop City, and we’re soon at the fringe. Thomas Pyncheon’s Vineland, Lisa Mason’s Summer of Love, and Jan Kerouac’s Baby Driver get nods. I’d add Edward Abbey, Tom Robbins, and John Nichols to the list. And then?

Well, there’s always my Freakin’ Free Spirits cycle at Smashwords.com. All four volumes.

As Michael Wards, author of Bitch, a novel about Berkeley 1968-73, commented on an earlier post here, “Today I don’t think 20-year-olds would believe their grandparents were capable of anything that actually happened then.”

That, I suppose, is the entire point. We came so close to a real revolution across the social and economic spectrum. That vision needs to be kept alive and rekindled. Especially in the face of today’s repressive regime.

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A CLUTCH OF MAPS

One of my favorite passages in all of poetry comes from Howard McCord’s “Longjaunes His Periplus”:

A chest of maps
is a greater legacy
than a case of whisky.

Followed by:

My father left me both.

Like my younger one, I’ve always been fond of maps. My bedroom wall was lined with tacked-up National Geographic charts, which tended to sag in our humid summers.

I was reminded of this the other morning when I was looking for a Boston street map, just in case I lost my bearings. Yes, I could have gone to the maps at Yahoo or Google. Even looked for the satellite views and all of the scary ability to snoop that goes with it. I couldn’t, though, use a GPS, neo-Luddite that I partly remain.

So I opened the drawer and here’s what I found (I won’t give you the years, though many are from the early ’80s):

  • Connecticut.
  • Pennsylvania (Exxon).
  • Seacoast (New Hampshire).
  • Idaho.
  • New Jersey.
  • Sierra Club USA.
  • Pennsylvania (official).
  • AAA USA.
  • Long Island/New York City.
  • Saugus Iron Works.
  • Maine.
  • Historic Bath.
  • Delaware.
  • Audubon Flyways.
  • Walking Tours of Bath.
  • Strafford County.
  • Dover (0ne of a half-dozen varieties).
  • Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Has a great stand of mountain laurel overlooking the Merrimack River.
  • University of New Hampshire campus.
  • Museums of Boston.
  • Gonic Trails.
  • Doctors Without Borders global view (two copies).
  • Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
  • Paul Revere House in Boston.
  • Manchester, New Hampshire.
  • Vermont.
  • New Hampshire (one of several varieties).
  • National Geographic the Making of New England and another of Canada.
  • North Cascades.
  • Mount Rainier, including trails.
  • New York City subways (two versions, three maps).
  • Brunswick and neighboring Maine.
  • National Geographic Endangered Earth.
  • Virginia.
  • White Mountains trail guides.
  • Mount Agamenticus.
  • Lamprey River.
  • Pawtuckaway State Park.
  • Trumbull County, Ohio.
  • Baltimore (two versions).
  • Britain and Ireland.
  • Mohegan Island.
  • Historic New England properties.
  • Maryland.
  • Lake Champlain Ferries.
  • Maine State Ferry Service.
  • Ipswich, Massachusetts.
  • Portsmouth-Exeter-Hampton etc.
  • York (Maine) Water District trails.
  • Minute Man National Monument, a series of sites in Massachusetts …
They even take me places I haven't yet been, as well as back to some old favorites. All without leaving the house.
They even take me places I haven’t yet been, as well as back to some old favorites. All without leaving the house.

And that’s before we get to the drawer of topographical maps, especially those from my Cascades years. Or the books and atlases. Or the genealogical maps, Guilford County, especially in those files.

Oh, the memories! And you want to tell me they’re obsolete? Fat chance!

A WRITER’S IDENTITY

“You’re more of a poet,” one of my favorite authors mentioned over coffee.

Huh? I had, after all, found publishers for two of my novels but none of my collections of poetry. So what if both novels were out of print, right?

Back in high school, when the writing bug hit me, I envisioned successfully working in fiction, poetry, theater, and journalism – successfully and famously, at that. That was way back before I discovered the reality of just how specialized each field can be, even before we get into the micro-subcategories, or how much rarified knowledge is required to navigate them professionally. Or how much competition there is across the board.

A first I felt my friend’s comment as a gentle reproach. There is always so much more to master, after all, as I tell myself after encountering another moving example of fine craftsmanship and deep insight.

As I returned to his comment, though, I picked up on another angle, the one that reflects a particular author’s sensibilities. He has me realizing that my basic outlook is as a poet, and that I carry that over into my novels.

Recently, another friend and I were discussing what we’d been reading, and he brought up Jim Harrison’s novels. He’d just finished seven in sequence. “He’s also a fine poet,” I said. But now, as I return to my bookshelves, I see an argument that Harrison is a novelist first, an outlook he carries over into the poems.

This is not to say that a writer has to be pigeonholed or can’t move among forms. After all, I could present a long list of fine poets whose essays I treasure. Many of them, as I noted in the Talking Money series at my Chicken Farmer I Still Love You blog, address the decidedly down-to-earth issues of income, budgeting, labor, possessions, time, wealth, and community.

Detailing what would place a writer in the poet category or else in the novelist line could provide an interesting roundtable discussion all its own. We’ll leave that for another time.

I will, however, suggest it arises in a state of mind – of seeing the world and of relating to those around us. And, I will add, I find myself far from writing or revising poetry when I’m working on a novel, simply because the fiction generates or relies upon another state of mind, even if the prose that results has poetic qualities.

 

THE NOVELIST STRIKES ANOTHER POSE

100_9850Dear Reader:  Are you aware that this is a social protest novel? Have you delineated the symbolism running through construction? Can you guess the antecedent novels that most influenced the Author in his quest of the Muse? What form will his next opus assume? Will he learn from his mistakes? Does he even perceive them? Will he renounce writing? Who will turn this into his next movie? What music will be selected to amplify it?

Please clip and mail to the Author. Your comments are always appreciated.

Thank you.

The Author.

~*~

To learn more about my novels, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

WHICH SIDE OF THE REVOLUTION?

In drawing on the hippie era, I realize how many different strands there were to the movement. Mine happened to lead into a yoga ashram, and though we were drug-free and celibate, we were also at the crossroads of a lot of the hippie action.

All of that’s reflected in my Hippie Trails novels.

As I ponder the era, I also realize DL’s journey in those pages could just as easily turned toward underground violence, had he joined one of the cells of bombers targeting military research operations in frustration, and that version of the story probably would have had commercial publishing cachet. But to me, it would have been dishonest.

More meaningful to my vision is the comment by Mari (River Mama 5) to an earlier posting here:

Amazing how many different views there are. … Hippies to me were quite different. To me, it gave birth to great changes in our society. … I am quite thankful for … the back to the land movement and the Calvary Chapels churches that came to exist during this time. I came to know Jesus Christ in one of them.

They also pioneered living a simpler life … showing compassion to others. Taking care of this gift that is our planet. The “hippies” in America, were great artisans. As a weaver, quilter, and knitter, I look back at this time and find myself inspired by the way creativity roamed free among this way of living.

This is the side I wish to nourish and celebrate. And thank you, Mari and all the others, for sharing.

LIGHTING THE FUSE

It’s tune in, turn on, and take action in this tale of campus intrigue. Little does a small band in a remote college town realize its opposition to small-ante bureaucracy goes straight to the state capital. And then Washington and the Mekong Delta are another matter as the hippie movement hits tranquil Daffodil. Nothing will remain quite the same.

As the headline said:

BOTCHED DRUG BUST BACKFIRES.

When narcotics agents made an early morning knock-down-the-doors raid on the twelfth-floor of one of the high-rise dormitory towers, they turned up nothing – and were surrounded by irate residents before they could frame anyone, either.

“If you think the slaying of innocent students at Jackson State University was merely a racial atrocity,” Lakasha proclaimed, “you’re not seeing the big picture. It’s about an attack on civil rights – freedoms that belong to all of us. You don’t have to live in a big city to live in ghetto housing. Every student in Daffodil lives in a ghetto. Where I come from, we have a word for high-rise housing like these big dorms – the Projects. And the pigs who come charging into the Projects act just like those who busted in on the twelfth floor the other night. Never mind whether they find anything or not. Look, the university’s demanding that the students pay for the busted doors and busted furniture and busted walls. That’s why they call it a bust in the first place. Wake up, America! Demand the names of the ‘unnamed informants,’ the ones who were so wrong about the presence of illicit substances in those rooms. Wake up, I say! Mississippi’s closer to Daffodil than you think!”

~*~

To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Daffodil-jnana

ONE LIBRARIAN’S TAKE

Perhaps you’ve heard someone tell another, “You should write a book about that,” relating to some personal experience they think would become a bestseller.

Neither of them, however, actually reads books, even if they expect others to do so.

Sometimes one of these individuals actually does crank out the manuscript and even self-publishes it (not that self-publishing is intrinsically wrong, mind you – just that one needs to be aware of the perils that route takes, whether it’s in the traditional bound paper editions or in the newer digital ebooks).

A neighbor came across one of these paper versions a few months back and decided to ask a librarian acquaintance for her reaction. After reading a page or two (often that’s all it takes), she sniffed: “This reads like somebody who doesn’t read books.”

How telling. How telling, indeed, even before we get to the swollen ego.