Archive for August, 2008

Evolution of Local Boy Covers

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I mentioned in the commentary for Chapter 15 that the short set of covers Local Boy first plays for the narrator underwent a number of iterations.  Thought it would be fun to explore those old versions here.

In the very first draft (circa 2003), the songs were:

I’ll Follow the Sun
We Can Work It Out
In My Life
Everyday
I Walk the Line

Two of the final five are already present (“We Can Work It Out” & “Everyday”).  As for the others:

I’ll Follow The Sun
Included because it’s acoustic and simple, but dropped since the narrator previously referred to it while finding his way around town.

In My Life
Chosen for the time travel imagery the song evokes, and possibly also because Johnny Cash covered it.  Dropped for the same reasons and to not have multiple Beatles songs.

I Walk The Line
Honestly I don’t recall why I picked this, which probably explains why I dropped it.  Probably classified Cash as one of the “rock and roll forefathers” that the narrator’s Dad influenced him with in his younger years.

The next iteration:

Homeward Bound
People Are Strange
We Can Work It Out
Everyday
Sugar, Sugar
All Along The Watchtower

The set expands to six and now contains four of the final five.  Also of note is a comment I found scribbled in the margin of a previous draft:

“Nick Drake?  Rod Stewart?  Homeward Bound?”

Only one of those notes (temporarily) made it in, but the influence was felt.  Remember this for later…

Notes on the discarded songs:

Homeward Bound
An obvious choice to connect the dots between the Dad calling Paul Simon “one of the greats” in a previous chapter.  Would have loved to have kept this one, but it didn’t fit the final theme of the cover set.

Sugar, Sugar
The Billboard Single of the Year for 1969, and coincidentally just wrapping up four weeks at #1 on the charts the day our hero arrives in ’69.  Made sense that Local Boy would be covering something that was really big at the time, and when I did the pop chart research it felt like a perfect choice.  Dropped for the same reason as “Homeward Bound,” I think that this cover probably popped up on a few of Local Boy’s tours from time to time and might even be on the LBBS live album.

And now for the final version in the actual book:

People Are Strange
We Can Work It Out
Everyday
Piece of My Heart
All Along the Watchtower

Remember that Nick Drake note?  Seems it subconsciously put dead musicians in my head, which set things up for the final theme of this set of covers.

People Are Strange
Chapter 16 originally started off with the death of Jim Morrison, but was later changed to Jimi Hendrix when I rewrote it to include the narrator predicting the other members of the 27 club to Local Boy.  Can you say foreshadowing?

We Can Work It Out
Included from the very beginning, I kept it to dovetail with the “Paul Is Dead” reference earlier in the book.  Incidentally, Paul was 27 in 1969.  I also liked how having Local Boy do this song famously in 1969/70 might have stolen the thunder from Stevie Wonder’s 1971 cover, furthering the unexplored impact of stolen songs.

Everyday
Also included from the first draft, this should have/could have put the theme in my head from the start.  Just a great classic song and one that showcases the simple LB style I envisioned.  The lyrics also evoke time & love, making it a good fit.

Piece of My Heart
Like Coverville‘s Brian Ibbott, I’m also fascinated by gender swapping covers and had to include Local Boy doing Janis in his repertoire.

All Along The Watchtower
See the Jimi/Jim note above.  In my head this version sounds like LB doing a folk version of Hendrix rather than Dylan, making for a deliciously interesting translation from folky Dylan to electric Hendrix and back to folky Local Boy.

iTunes Playlist (Including all non-Beatles songs referenced)

Local Author Done Good

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

From my hometown paper, The Easton Journal:

Local Author Spins Time Travel Tale

Local Author Spins Time Travel Tale

Paperback Writer

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Timely Persuasion is now available at Paperback Junction at 669 Washington Street in Easton, MA.

Paperback Junction

Paperback Junction

Paperback Junction is probably the first book store I ever frequented as a child. Bought all of my summer reading books there every year, hung out in the used book corner while my Mom ran errands at adjacent stores, religiously showed up once a month when each new serialized volume of The Green Mile came out, and even showed up bright and early on the tail end of my TP writing sabbatical to pick up Dark Tower V on its day of release.  Needless to say, it’s an honor for PJ to be my first brick and mortar.

Special thanks to Gretchen Miller for accepting the book, to Jon Mack and Sean Willis for coordinating delivery, and to my parents for the photos.

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo?

Buddha Blessed?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Some astute readers have pointed out that the narrator’s journey has an uncanny similarity to the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism.  To learn more about this concept, visit Wikipedia or read The Way to End Suffering by Bhikkhu Bodhi.   For an analysis of how this fits into the story of Timely Persuasion, read on.

1.  Right View
The Prologue, featuring the narrator’s views on life and love and the situation of his sister.

From the Bodhi text:

“The importance of right view can be gauged from the fact that our perspectives on the crucial issues of reality and value have a bearing that goes beyond mere theoretical convictions. They govern our attitudes, our actions, our whole orientation to existence. Our views might not be clearly formulated in our mind; we might have only a hazy conceptual grasp of our beliefs. But whether formulated or not, expressed or maintained in silence, these views have a far-reaching influence. They structure our perceptions, order our values, crystallize into the ideational framework through which we interpret to ourselves the meaning of our being in the world.”

2.  Right Intention
Our narrator means well in all of his meddling, from his overprotectiveness of his sister to his objecting, and even in his involvement with setting his sister up with Nelson to begin with.

Bodhi:

“The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness.  The three are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention: intention governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and intention governed by harmfulness.  Each kind of right intention counters the corresponding kind of wrong intention.”

The narrator has the 3 right intentions, whereas he has convinced himself (possibly incorrectly) that Nelson has the 3 wrong intentions.

3.  Right Speech
Literally, the objection speech at the wedding.  Figuratively, his failed attempts revolve around slandering Nelson to a degree, even though “slander” is the wrong word since his comments ares based on facts and observances.  It also revolves around lying to his other selves regarding what is going on.

“The Buddha divides right speech into four components: abstaining from false speech, abstaining from slanderous speech, abstaining from harsh speech, and abstaining from idle chatter.”

In the end, both the old and young narrator speak the truth and achieve much more satisfactory results, culminating in the honest telling of the full tale, but minimizing idle chatter by not naming names.  They need to find the “right speech” in order to succeed.

4.  Right Action
He abstains (albeit inadvertently) from most of his past relationships as a part of his quest.  He diverges from this path with the redheaded girl and his attempt to eliminate Nelson, but later traps Nelson rather than killing him as he completes this stage.  He also decides not to pursue the redheaded girl in the end.

“Right action means refraining from unwholesome deeds that occur with the body as their natural means of expression. The pivotal element in this path factor is the mental factor of abstinence, but because this abstinence applies to actions performed through the body, it is called “right action.”  The Buddha mentions three components of right action: abstaining from taking life, abstaining from taking what is not given, and abstaining from sexual misconduct.”

5.  Right Livelihood
At one point he uses the wrong livelihood in stealing the songs to teach his father, but in the end undoes this change to move to the proper path of setting things right. (The songs could also tie in to “taking what is not given” as described above.)

“For a lay disciple the Buddha teaches that wealth should be gained in accordance with certain standards. One should acquire it only by legal means, not illegally; one should acquire it peacefully, without coercion or violence; one should acquire it honestly, not by trickery or deceit; and one should acquire it in ways which do not entail harm and suffering for others”

6.  Right Effort
His efforts are focused on preventing and abandoning the bad aspects while creating and maintaining the good.

Wikipedia:

In this factor, the practitioners should make a persisting effort to abandon all the wrong and harmful thoughts, words, and deeds.The four phases of right effort mean:

  1. make effort to prevent the unwholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
  2. make effort to destroy the unwholesome that has arisen in oneself.
  3. make effort to arouse the wholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
  4. make effort to maintain the wholesome that has arisen in oneself.

7.  Right Mindedness
Discovering the ultimate truths regarding what has been going on, accepting them, and using the new knowledge to act on them.

Bodhi:

“The Buddha says that the Dharma, the ultimate truth of things, is directly visible, timeless, calling out to be approached and seen. He says further that it is always available to us, and that the place where it is to be realized is within oneself. The ultimate truth, the Dharma, is not something mysterious and remote, but the truth of our own experience. It can be reached only by understanding our experience, by penetrating it right through to its foundations. This truth, in order to become liberating truth, has to be known directly.”

This is also echoed in how we start with full body time travel, and evolve (de-volve?) to headtrip travel of the mind.

“Though no fixed order is laid down in which they are to be taken up, the body is generally taken first as the basic sphere of contemplation; the others come into view later, when mindfulness has gained in strength and clarity.”

8.  Right Concentration
All of the various deep thoughts and self analysis that goes on in his inner monologue throughout the novel, as well as the specific “right concentration” required to travel in time.

“Concentration represents an intensification of a mental factor present in every state of consciousness. This factor, one-pointedness of mind (citt’ekaggata), has the function of unifying the other mental factors in the task of cognition. It is the factor responsible for the individuating aspect of consciousness, ensuring that every citta or act of mind remains centered on its object.  Even then its range is still narrower: it does not signify every form of wholesome concentration, but only the intensified concentration that results from a deliberate attempt to raise the mind to a higher, more purified level of awareness.”

————–

Pretty interesting how all of those deeper themes could be embedded into a musically infused time travel adventure, eh?

Guess what?

It’s all a coincidence.

I’d never heard of the 8 truths until I was several drafts into the book, and never consciously tried to modify anything to work them in.

Makes you wonder how many other times works of art or literature are analyzed for deeper hidden meanings that aren’t really there.

Commentary: Prologue (Reprise)

Friday, August 1st, 2008

There’s a little epilogue to my tale of sadness.  Originally I used the typical Prologue/Epilogue pairing.  Later I changed them both to Prologue to emphasize that they were sort of the same chapter as told before and after the events of the book.  I didn’t really like losing the song titles as chapter titles theme (though there are numerous songs with titles of “Prologue” and “Epilogue”), but compromised with the parenthetical “reprise” at the end.  Sometimes I think “Encore” would have been better…

Other tidbits:

  • I wrote this chapter out of sequence from the rest, probably just before starting the hospital chapters.
  • According to the old man, the sister never married the “first” time around.  So this new history isn’t actually setting everything back to how it originally was, but instead a third variation.
  • Note that her husband doesn’t have a name, whereas previously Nelson was the only named character in the entire book.  Note also that in the previous chapter the narrator tells us he’s naming Nelson because “hate needs a name.”  Does this mean that she has a different husband, or that her husband is still Nelson but he’s no longer hated?
  • This coda is intentionally ambiguous, and in this final commentary post I’m being intentionally coy.  Without giving too much of my intent away I’ll just say this:  I definitely know how the story ends, but I don’t know if this is actually the end of the story or not since there might be a sequel.  Until that’s decided, either interpretation above is valid.  (Ask me next February 29th and I might change my answer.)
  • There is only one musical reference in this short chapter, hinting at the fact that music may not be a big part of the narrator’s life this time around.

Read Prologue (Reprise) Online

Buy the Paperback