Dark in the room. Silent.
Imagining flashes of ancient rifles in the dark night, sudden loud
cracking shots fired from who knows where.
Quantrill's pistol. Holes blown
in bodies. Violence. Betrayal.
No legislatures had yet voted to secede. Death.
Effects subtend causes. Remember metaphysics, my freshman year? A mistake.
The philosophical mind proscribes the clinically empiric. Concepts, physical things digested away in elemental
words. Abstracted abstractions. No causalogist, I. Con-sequentiality in time and con-tiguity in
space. Tangere, to touch. Necessity.
Sufficiency. A thermodynamic demiurge. Consequential sputtering sparking arc
weld flashing linkages between events effacing time's arrow, I argued. Progressively, emphatically squeeze down the
interval, a calculus of limits, and expunge time from consideration. Charlie in that class, too. Correlation does not necessarily imply
causation, he said, except in certain states where required by law. Quantum mechanics throws it all into doubt
anyway. All grows fuzzy. And the overwhelming human demand for
reductionism. Oversimplifying complexes
of contributing effects or events, hungry for that one critical final lasting
eternal keystone cause, almost always to confirm preexisting notions or buttress
an axiomatic moral framework. A host of
ingredients contribute to the mulligan stew.
Tired. I cant.
Is history causal? We assume.
If not a longitudinal, linked chain, can history exist? Sterile concept. Chaos otherwise. If a butterfly flutters its wings. History is a vast river system of causes and
none of them proximate, all of them necessary, none of them sufficient. All time immanent in a defined space. A loaf.
Bulk. That's history. Who we are, and why.
I am at present working on the second chapter of Memphis Blues Again. I thought I'd take a moment to display some
of my writing technique, if it can be called that.
Some writers simply write all the way through a manuscript and
then go back and try to bang it into the shape of a story. To some degree I do the same, but in later
drafts I'm also continuously going back to earlier chapters and making small,
subtle changes as I go along, or jotting down notes of things to include in
later chapters. The idea is to bring out
certain details, or to add material at a convenient place that I'd previously
neglected or forgotten, or simply to try to improve the rhythm and musicality
of the text. For MBA I've chopped the original draft into a myriad of pieces and
rearranged their order into a new outline which I'm assembling from the
original text even while I'm taking a good deal of the expository material and
dramatizing it in the form of new characters, so quite a lot of additional
"writing" is involved too.
A few days ago the first chapter included this paragraph, a
memory sequence engaged in by my protagonist, Max Bainbridge:
Creek and Pea Ridge drew their attention away, though. Politicians and
ambitious officers. Promised glory
painted across the skies, painted with unnumbered sparks, all fire and shine. They sensed in the moment's fury better ways
faraway to do bigger things. A
never-ending parade of padishahs and suzerains imposed in northern Missouri
like a row of carnival shooting ducks, and legitimate, demoralized conscripts
vying with Jennisons and Montgomerys in Kansas hell-bent on paying their way
out of tyranny with blood.
Although I've moved on to other matters, already this has morphed into the
following, with changes marked:
Wilson's Creek and
Pea Ridge drew their attention away, though.
Politicians and ambitious officers.
Promised glory painted across the skies, painted with unnumbered sparks,
all fire and shine, the
Siren's song resonant in the tide-haul of adrenalin and testosterone. They sensed in the moment's fury better ways
faraway to do bigger things. Bronze stars
and golden. A never-ending parade of padishahs
and suzerains imposed on
northern Missouri like a row of carnival shooting ducks. Guerrillas
successfully tying down big chunks of the Union army with unpopular, unhappy
and neglected occupation forces stranded in the rear, far away from any opportunity
for triumphant laurels or promotion. The
butt-end of the war. And in
Kansas professional but likewise
conscripts vying with Jennisons and Montgomerys, them hell-bent on paying their way out of
tyranny with blood, or
just on spilling blood, and meanwhile turning a tidy profit.
No doubt this is not the final version, but itself only a transitional phase of the process (in fact I've made a few changes while writing this blog post). This sort of shuffling, or refining, or digesting, goes on
continuously when I'm rewriting. This is
why writing has, to me, come to feel more like creating a sculpture than
painting a two-dimensional picture in words.
And a few of the new items in my notebook, to remind me of
things to do much, much later; changes which have very little to do with plot
or characterization, which so preoccupy nearly all readers (if the writer's
properly done his job):
20130225 1111 hr Have somebody say this: "I guess the only thing more dangerous
than a man armed with a gun is a man armed with a principle. But without principles a man's life aint
hardly worth livin'."
Note that I have no intention to use this quote exactly as
scribbled into my notebook, but the idea is there. This would have to come somewhere pretty far
into the story after a great amount of Civil War hardship has already taken
place; possibly on the march to Atlanta or Savannah which, at present, would
put it in Chapter NN or RR; that is, chapter 39 or 43. If I can find this note then it will be
something of a miracle.
20130226 0632 hr Charlie at some point on the first day's
drive makes a glancing allusion to The
Outlaw Josey Wales.
This curious note is simply to demonstrate in an almost
undetectable way – in about chapter I, or chapter 9 – that one of my main
characters possesses at least sketchy knowledge of the Kansas-Missouri border
war from having seen old westerns.
A great amount of information here to ponder. I must admit I wasn't expecting to see so much slavery in Texas, although if normalized by acreage that may be deceiving: I haven't done the math. Note how slavery distribution tracks the Missouri River in Missouri, which helps account for the history that unfolded in that state during the Civil War. (If you right-click and open in a new tab, you can see the map and its data much more clearly.)
I'm very happy this morning to discover
that Blanche Kelso Bruce has family ties that connect him to Memphis Blues Again. For those who doubt the existence of a vast, suppressed history, know that this half-black man was nominated for Vice-President of the United States in the Republican Party in 1880, 128 years before another half-black American attained the summit of the Executive branch.