Friday, April 27, 2012

Me and My Shadow (A Book Report Update)

A little note to readers as I continue grinding away at the final draft of the book on which I've been working, with the goal of having it in the hands of the press by early May: if I seem distracted as I blog here lately, I am!  I find the final stages of working on almost anything--an article, a book--far more difficult than the beginning stages.

There's no longer that initial burst of enthusiasm.  Energy has been spent, interesting clues followed to interesting places.

And then there are the dreary footnotes to clean up and re-read, dreary tables and indexes to do, endless proofreading to face, repetitions to weed out.  And spirits (my spirit, at least) flag.

In the midst of it all, this past week, two incendiary new (incendiary for the story I tell in the book) tidbits of information have suddenly dropped into my lap, and they mean rethinking part of my thesis, making significant revisions to portions of the manuscript, and pursuing these new avenues of research to their ultimate sources.  History is vexatious and always intractable, never remaining in the fixed patterns we've created for it with our schemes of historical interoperation, and it would be far easier to pretend I had not just obtained the copy of the 1897 letter that opens a whole new vista of meaning for the people I'm researching.

Now I'm in the position of someone doing a biography of that distinguished Supreme Court justice with the nice wife and nice family of children, who is invited to dinner by the justice just as the biography is nearing completion, and who happens to notice in the closet of the Supreme the mystifying blond wig draped over the spangly red dress, beneath which perches proudly a stunning pair of black patent-leather pumps with gold buckles.

Does one ask?  And tell?

The ethics of writing books that claim to have something to do with the truth.  The uncomfortable ethics of dedicating oneself to pursuing and telling truth.

I apologize for the distracted blogging I've been doing, the hiatuses in blogging, my lack of energy and hope (and probably charity, above all).  I don't ever feel conspicuously hopeful as we Americans contort ourselves into new pretzel shapes with each election cycle, and this election cycle leaves me more exasperated and despondent than most in the past, I think.  A fortiori, what has been happening in my church, which is entirely connected to the theater of absurdity that American politics has become . . . . 

One should probably not try to write a book in a world that is so unruly and so resistant to interpretation.  And in which the milk of human kindness runs so thin and unjust structures bent on maintaining their power by pretending that no one exists except members of one's own club seem predictably to prevail.

But if one waited for the world to become manageable and clear, would one ever write anything, I wonder?

The graphic is from Melinda Seckington's wonderful Miss Geeky Blog, which is chock-full of amazing photographs. 

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