Why I Write

Why I Write

I write because I am a prisoner.

I write because there exists, beyond the walls of my preconceptions and just outside the barriers of my inventiveness, another story.

It’s not wholly personal or cultural or factual. It’s not religious or utopian. Nor is it political. It’s all of these things, or some, or none of them. It’s unknown, untold; it’s novel.

I write to discover that new story – the one that will set me free.

My novel is available here: The Last Island

Lying Still

Hospital Bed

When I was 17 years old, I dove into a swimming pool and broke my neck.

Until that moment, I’d been relentlessly active, my days taxed with dread of missing something somewhere. I was on the student council and participated in a wide variety of school clubs. I always secured a part in the school play and rode a unicycle in talent shows. I ran cross-country in the fall, track in the spring and was co-captain of the basketball team in between. I was an honor student who worked full-time in the summer and caddied most weekends in the spring and early fall, except on certain Sundays when I served as an altar boy. I’d never had a drink or a smoke, and I rarely swore. Yet that pleasant summer day, for reasons still unclear to me, I plunged into a six-foot deep above-ground pool and slammed the top of my head on the sloped concrete bottom.

An hour and a half later, strapped to a stretcher in the Emergency Room, I was told that I’d fractured the fifth cervical vertebra in my neck and there was the possibility of paralysis. That night in a hospital room, two doctors and a nurse screwed two metal pins into the sides of my head. The pins were attached to a half-circle metal bracket, which itself was attached to a weight that hung from the end of the bed. Two small, convex mirrors were suspended above my face so I could see the entire room without moving my head. I was told I’d have to keep my head and shoulders as motionless as possible for the next ten weeks.

I tried to teach myself the guitar, but flat on my back with braces, mirrors and weights surrounding me, it proved impossible. I tried to keep up with my school work but tired quickly suspending heavy textbooks in the air. I even worked out with ankle weights on my legs for a few days until my doctor objected.

So my muscles atrophied, and I fell behind on my schoolwork. I watched television through prism-shaped eyeglasses and, for the first time, did nothing. I suffered a stress ulcer that first week as I adjusted to my new tethered, horizontal existence: backless tee-shirts, milkshake meals, sponge baths and bed pans.

On Wednesdays, student nurses assisted at the hospital. In their early twenties and relatively experienced, these weren’t women with whom I’d normally have had any contact. They changed my bed sheets and clothes and helped me eat, drink and do some mild, bed-bound exercises. Every week a new woman in white walked into my room, sisterly or flirtatious, concerned or carefree. Whether it was the unbroken time together or the physical proximity or the fact that we’d never see each other again, these women often opened up to me. There were half a dozen years and a lifetime of experience between us, and I was, for a day, a student of their loves and hopes and frustrations. I was bound to the bed, venturing with eager questions and a patient ear where I’d never gone before.

My friend Leon visited me nearly every day. He’d enrolled at my Catholic high school after being thrown out of the larger public high school. The rumor was that he’d stolen a boat, but nobody knew that for sure because the record was sealed. He quickly earned a nickname, the Devil, from his gleeful, fearless tormenting of parents, teachers, and coaches.

Leon never came empty handed to my room, bringing me a sandwich or the cassette of a band or comedian I wanted to hear. Leon knew I didn’t like to swear, however, and would only hand them over if I’d yell out a few curses of his choosing. (He was a master of creative phrasing.) One day, Leon stood near the door and enticed me to say some particularly well-selected words as loud as I could. The next thing I heard was the voice of Sister Patricia, our English teacher.

“Hospital life has increased your vocabulary, David,” she said, poking her head in the door.

Undeterred, the good Sister returned every week, usually when Leon was there. I believe she did it on purpose, perhaps trying to tempt the Devil to more virtuous ways. One day, we talked about our dreams for the future. Leon said he intended to run a nightclub in Montreal. I said that I merely wanted to get up from the bed. Sister Patricia confessed that, as younger girl, she’d wanted to be a trapeze artist. This was a revelation because in my mind, nuns were supposed to have been born that way. Leon was less impressed.

“So you wanted to be a swinger, Sister?’ he said.

One Friday night two weeks in, the phone rang. A friend had injured his elbow and was in traction a few doors down. He asked if I wanted a beer. I was staring through mirrors at the empty room, going nowhere, missing it all, the risk of paralysis decreasing but not yet passed, and so, for the first time in my life, I said, yes, I would like a beer.

A few minutes later, a blue-jeaned girl with sleepy eyes strolled into my room hiding a Pabst Blue Ribbon in her bag. She popped the top and shared it with me through one of the bendy straws with which I drank everything. She didn’t go to my school, and we’d never met before, but she returned the next night and almost every weekend night after that. In time, we started making out amidst the metal framework and that fastened me to the bed. It was perilous and sometimes funny, and things were never quite the same when those obstacles were gone.

Ten weeks after diving into that shallow pool, I walked out of the hospital sporting a metal brace that went from my waist to my chin. Until that time, I’d been taxed with the fear of missing something somewhere. But I’d just spent two and half months on my back, lying still, unable to go anywhere or do anything, and yet candid nurses and circus nuns, a righteous devil and a nimble, sleepy-eyed girl had all found their way to me.

All I had to do was lie there.

My debut novel is available here: The Last Island

Novel Recommendation

At Swim-Two-Birds

At Swim-Two-Birds’ by Flann O’Brien.

Not one of my three sisters is a loud, dirty, boozy girl. That’s probably a good thing for them — as well as me. But if one or two or all of them were, I would give them this book if only because Dylan Thomas, that loud, dirty, boozy poet, said I should.

Even without that recommendation, how can anyone resist a novel that reflects on the humanity of kangaroos, including “the kangaroolity of women and your wife beside you?”

Or one that offers an occasional “summary of what has gone before, for the benefit of new readers?”

Or one where an author sleeps with one of his own characters and conceives a child, who then goes on to write a book about what a terrible writer his father is?

Joyce loved it, so did Beckett and Graham Greene and Jorge Luis Borges, and Brendan Gleeson is trying to turn it into a movie. It’s Flann O’Brien’s ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’ and one of my favorite novels. Go on, find yourself a loud, dirty, boozy girl and give it to her.

Of course, if that doesn’t suit you, you can try my novel, which is available here: The Last Island

 

The Last Island: Another Update +

Number 1 Bestseller

‘The Last Island’ was the Number 1 bestseller at Amazon Australia this week, holding the No. 1 position in both ‘Literary Fiction’ and ‘Contemporary Fiction’ simultaneously.

In addition, as many of you know, the novel recently hit bestseller status in the United Kingdom as well.

Many thanks to my publisher, Betimes Books, for their ongoing support and to everyone who has helped spread the word.

In addition, in September, for those of you in Southern California, my short play, ‘Offline Daters,’ will be presented with some other short plays in an evening called ‘Legends,’ produced by the New Play Cafe.

I’ll provide more details as the opening date approaches.

Thanks again to all.

And for those who haven’t read it yet, the novel is available worldwide here: The Last Island.

 

 

The Last Island: An Update

San Diego Books Awards
The Last Island’ is one of three Finalists in the Contemporary Fiction category of the 2014 San Diego Book Awards.

In addition, the novel was recently an Amazon Literary Bestseller in the U.K.

Thanks so much to everyone for their support.

All the recommendations, shares, retweets, purchases and reviews are sincerely appreciated.

And if you haven’t read it yet, the novel is available worldwide here: The Last Island.

Sir Edmund Hemingway

Look out below...

Don’t look down.

The call came in much the way you might imagine:

“Is this David?  I’d really like to talk to you about your novel.”

He was a literary agent in New York, who’d just left a large and famous agency to start his own.  He was aggressive, connected and smart, which was good — and he really liked my novel, which was better.

We went out for drinks.  We signed a contract.  We were partners, of sorts, sharing the same dream of getting my novel into the hands of an eager public.  At least, that’s what I thought…

I wrote about my experiences with this agent for an Irish writing site in an article called, “I am Tenzing.”  Now, you might be thinking, Sir Edmund Hemingway, Tenzing… tell me he didn’t use mountain climbing as a metaphor for getting a book published?

Well, it’s more about the Sherpas, and you can read the article here: ‘I am Tenzing

And the novel that is the snow-capped summit of that adventure is available here: THE LAST ISLAND

The Novel vs. The Theater: The Final Days (A One-Act Play)

Moby Dick on Stage

Thar she blows!

(A courtroom.  The Judge sits at an imposing desk.  There is a gavel to the side.  He flips through a few pieces of paper, then looks up.)

JUDGE:  Okay.  Theater versus Novel.  Couldn’t work this one out?  Twitter, Facebook, shortened attention spans, no reason to leave the house, is that it?  The novel is dead, the theater is subsidized, so you’re going to battle it out… because you think there’s only room for one of you.  Okay, let’s get on with it then.  Theater, looks like you’re up first.  You’ve chosen to do ‘Moby Dick’ as if written by playwrights in ten lines or less.  You may begin.

(He glances at the paper on his desk.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  The playwright is William Shakespeare.

(Ishmael and Ahab stand in the courtroom.  Ahab has a jug of wine.)

AHAB:  The whale waxes desperate with tails and fins.

ISHMAEL:  To let it be, or not to let it be, that is the question.

AHAB:  Something is rotten on this ship of Pequod.  Here, have some wine.

ISHMAEL:  You drink it.

AHAB:  After you.

ISHMAEL:  You go first.

AHAB:  No, you go first!

(The Judge smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  The playwright is Tom Stoppard.

(Ishmael enters from one side of the courtroom.  Ahab limps out from the other.  They meet.)

AHAB:  Who’re you?

ISHMAEL:  Call me Ishmael.

AHAB:  Is-mail?

ISHMAEL:  Close enough.

AHAB:  So you’re the new postman?

(The Judge smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  Aristophanes.

(Ahab enters and sees Ishmael standing alone.)

AHAB:  Tell me?  What do you think of the fishermen on this boat?

ISHMAEL:  They’re all buggers.

AHAB:  And the Nantucketers?

ISHMAEL:  Buggers to a man.

AHAB:  And the rest of the country, what about them?

(Ishmael thinks about this.)

ISHMAEL:  By heaven, that’s a lot of people and almost all of them buggers.

AHAB:  Then how do we stand?

ISHMAEL:  We’ve been beaten by the buggers.

(Judge smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  Neil Simon.

(Ishmael alone.)

ISHMAEL:  Traveling to New Bedford has been a whole new education for me.  I’ve found employment on a whaling ship run by a guy named Ahab.  This guy, Ahab’s got only one leg and he’s as tough as one of Momma’s chicken roasts.  Come to think of it, Momma’s chicken roasts had only one leg as well.

(The Judge smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  David Mamet.

(Ishmael and Ahab arguing.)

ISHMAEL:  What whiteness?

AHAB:  The whiteness of the whale.

ISHMAEL:  The whale?

AHAB:  The whiteness of it.

ISHMAEL:  Whale of whiteness?

AHAB:  It means something.

ISHMAEL:  Whiteness?

AHAB:  F—ing whale’s a c—.

(The Judge forcefully smacks the gavel.  Sighs.)

JUDGE:  I went to law school for this?  (reading)  Okay, the next playwright is Samuel Beckett.

(Ishmael and Ahab.)

ISHMAEL:  Is this ship moving?  What are we doing out here?

AHAB:  We’re trying to find the whale.

ISHMAEL:  How’s your leg?

AHAB:  Swelling visibly.

ISHMAEL:  I can’t go on.

AHAB:  Let’s jump overboard.

ISHMAEL:  Okay, let’s jump.

(They don’t move.  The Judge waits.  Eventually, he smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  Anton Chekhov.

(Ishmael and Ahab.)

ISHMAEL:  There’re no whales left.

AHAB:  No whales left?  Forgive me, my dear Ishmanov Yashmael, but the ocean is so big that
there must be more whales.

ISHMAEL:  The only thing about the ocean is that it is so big.  Look, Varya Ahabovich, my dear
friend, you must stop whaling and sell the fishing boat or else start transporting people to
Boston.  There is no other way out.

AHAB:  In the old days, ten, twenty years ago, you could’ve walked to Boston on the backs of
whales.  Leave me alone!

(Ahab limps out of the courtroom and shoots himself.  The Judge smacks the gavel.) 

JUDGE:  (reading)  Oscar Wilde.

ISHMAEL:  So your intent is to go after that big, white whale again?

AHAB:  That is exactly my intent.

ISHMAEL:  What if you lose the other leg?

AHAB:  So be it.  At least, I won’t find myself pacing in a circle.

ISHMAEL:  But my dear, Ahab, to lose one leg may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

(Judge smacks the gavel.  He looks around.)

JUDGE:  So…  that’s it?  (flipping through papers)  All right, Novel, you’re up next.  Let’s see, you’ve chosen to do ‘Oedipus Rex,’ as if written by Cervantes, Tolstoy, et al.  This is a story about a man who kills his father and then sleeps with his mother, right?  Sounds charming.

(He smacks the gavel.)

BLACKOUT

You can purchase ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.