Tuesday, February 21, 2012

History month

Work proceeds. I try to ask my co workers when I see them on Mondays how their various weekends went. And whenever I do, they cordially pass the question back to me. "I wrote," I typically say, and am happy to. This weekend's chapter came out of me on Saturday, so the part of the weekend I spent free of planning to write was more voluminous than usual. I even saw a friend on Sunday. The term rip-roaring comes to mind in description of the excitement.

A few months ago, an organic conversation bubbled up between a co-worker and I about things we liked to read. He had purchased my book, and had attempted to read it, which led him to lending me several books of his own in somewhat of an attempt to apologize for not liking what I wrote. It took some weeks, but I returned one of them, and apologized for losing the other, but the conversations didn't stop. When we got around to westerns, I was excited to tell him about one western I had read that I did enjoy, so we could finally have something in common (even though we share little aside from skin tone). Eventually, I gave him two books over two exchanges separated by weeks. One he liked, read in a night, delighted that I let him have it. The other he'll "have to go back and look at again."

Both feature black cowboys. One is about a group of soldiers during the civil war, very similar to the George Lucas produced Red Tails (there, you pulled an actual name out of me) except in a different time and place. The men were proud, and soldiered in spite of an era that labeled them unique. They battled through important battles at important times. The book was a lesson, one my older co-worker felt good about hearing, and repeating, and rehearsing in whatever other stories he read. The other novel was a dark comedy at its most light-hearted. The black character, literally interpreted, isn't so much the main character as the foil for all stereotypes about the old west and blacks' places in it. He escorts a white protagonist, a bigot and a buffoon, through a variety of dangerous situations only to be shot in the back in the end. Except he doesn't die.

After the conversation today, I kept thinking to myself, "but both books do the same thing." However, it wasn't until the server at my lunch restaurant got my order wrong that I realized that it wasn't important what I ordered. What was important was what the woman thought I ordered. What's important is what the reader thinks an author is trying to do. Or, at least, that is something to be highly valued in the process. Over my miss-ordered meal, I chewed on the notion of reading and writing and how, much like food, what a writer writes and what a reader reads says a lot about that particular artist (and if you caught that, then I meant it).

But I won't be dwelling on what the various things I do, artistically, say about me. I'll just be doing them. I will admit that it would be nice if two people somewhere were having a conversation right now on what I intended. At the stroke of midnight tonight, I'll have one less day to wait.

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