When I receive Linda’s SoCS prompt has a lot to do with how I respond to the challenge. That’s because Linda says that, in addition to not editing, there should be minimal planning in our responses. That’s harder to do than Linda thinks, especially when I look at the prompt during lunch on a work day. Try as I might, the sequestered voices in my head keep interrupting my thought process with “we could do this” and “or we could do that.” I keep them contained, but they often bust out of their confines while I’m driving home. One day, I actually drew a diagram in my head while driving home that I later used in the post. On days like today, Friday, November 4th, when I’m on vacation, I look at the prompt and if I start to get ideas, I start writing.
Except, I was trying to get some things done around the house, and that whole “minimal planning” thing became problematic. Actually, I guess it already was problematic, it became a problem. My first thought was to use the word ‘novel’ in a unique way. Get it? I started thinking about how to structure that. Maybe I’d could have a conversation at the bar. Maybe I could – stop planning!!! It wasn’t working. There were no self-discipline representatives telling the voices to “shut up and let us work” because there really wasn’t any work to do. Besides, Linda wants us to have fun. Well, she says to “enjoy” but it’s basically the same thing.
“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “novel.” Use it any way you’d like. Enjoy!”
I decided to throw the voices a curve ball. When I started writing, I thought about other people who had told me to “enjoy” something that one wouldn’t expect to be fun. As I walked by a book case in our family room, I remembered English 202, a.k.a. American Literature II, at West Virginia University (WVU) back in 1974. In English 201, the first part of American Lit, we read some dreadful stuff. Moby Dick, the Norton Critical Edition. That book is twice as long and 10 times as boring as Moby Dick the boring story edition.
The only people in the universe capable of making Herman Melville harder to read than Herman himself were the folks at Norton. The only author capable of making you look forward to reading Moby Dick is Benjamin Franklin, whom we also read that first semester. We also read Hemingway and Emerson.
That class made Scientific German, with words like: ‘destillationskondensators’ and ‘abgestuften zylinder’ seem interesting.
Anyway, when we started the second semester, we were told that we would focus on contemporary American authors. We were told to select an author that we liked and the professor would give us an assignment based on that selection. I chose Kurt Vonnegut. I have to admit, it wasn’t so much a love of his novels that drove me to that choice, it was the fact that I had recently read Slaughterhouse Five. My assignment was to compare and contrast three novels by Kurt Vonnegut.
Slaughterhouse Five – Cat’s Cradle – Breakfast of Champions
Those were the three books I chose. I won’t bore you by trying to retrieve my thoughts from the ether, but I do remember the assignment being easy. Vonnegut is easy to read, and there are many signature bits of his writing style that can be found in those three novels.
Breakfast of Champions was relatively new. It may have still been on the Bestseller list. It was a fun read, and I credit that book, more than any, as shaping the thought process required in stream of consciousness writing. Vonnegut was the master of clearing stuff out of his head and having it land on a page in a reasonable order.
Breakfast of Champions also influenced the artists in my head. Vonnegut pointed out that he illustrated the novel himself. One illustration was his drawing of an anus, which resembled nothing more than a large asterisk. I thought that was clever. 12 years later, when I was working as a consultant for a Big-8 firm, I adopted that illustration to highlight problematic, yes, that’s the right word this time, people in meetings. It was perfect. We always had to make a list of people in a meeting. If someone rose to the top of that particular scale, I’d simply put an asterisk next to their name. If they saw my work-papers, they were usually impressed. Only Kurt and I knew what I meant.