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Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Writing of THE GODS OF THE GIFT





One day in 1995 I was driving home through San Rafael. As I turned from Irwin onto Third Street, an image filled my mind in vivid detail.  I knew that I was seeing the ending of a vast, epic science fiction novel.  As I continued driving, I heard the words of the first chapter in my head:  "When he was nine years old, Garuvel Nep Zimrin discovered that he could disappear."  It went on that way as I drove, and I feel lucky that I made it home alive.
Where were these words coming from?  I'm a writer, but I've never written anything as if by dictation.  No book has emerged from my mind as if written by a complete stranger.  The words wouldn't stop!  That day, after getting to my word processor, I continued writing for fourteen hours.  I was merely a secretary, it seemed, for some hidden portion of my psyche. 
This wasn't good enough.  I liked the writing;  no, I loved it!  But it wasn't mine.  Was I planning on taking credit for it after it was finished?  I decided to investigate.  I used the simplest method at my disposal.  I sat on my meditation cushion and put myself into a receptive state.  When I had relaxed and felt my mind coming un-moored from its ordinary consciousness, I asked a question:  Who are you?
"WaldWen," a voice replied. It had a completely physical quality, as if a person stood right next to me and we were having a conversation.  The voice was androgynous.  I could not tell if it was male or female.  Intuition told me that it was both.  WaldWen projected an image into my mind.  He/She looked like a Buddhist image of Kwan-yin, with a face of feminine beauty and a body of male strength and grace.
"Are you a part of me, an alter-ego?  Is this some manifestation of Multiple Personality Disorder?  Have I lost it?  Have I gone cuckoo?"
"Yes and no," said WaldWen.  "You have made a place for me in yourself where I am comfortable.  You are not experiencing a pathological state.  You might consider it a gift."
"Is this a book that I would write if it were not for your presence?"
"You would not write this book, but if you allow me to continue using you as a medium, the experience will cause you no harm.  I intend that you participate to a high degree.  That is why I've chosen you.  I need a writer who can be both skeptical and accepting."
"Should I tell people about you?"
"First let us write the book. Then we will make decisions about how it will reach the world."
The process of writing THE GODS OF THE GIFT took about fifteen years.  I worked on other books and projects.  I made music, pursued photography.  Then WaldWen would make him/herself known and I would plunge into an altered state where vast portions of writing would come through me. WaldWen provided the structure of the book.  Waldwen guided me in the concepts that he/she wanted to convey. Waldwen trained me in the matters about which I was typing. I sat at my computer and typed.  I'm a fast typist. The process of writing this book was far different from my ordinary method of producing a novel. It was possible to write several thousand words a day for many days at a time.  Then WaldWen would withdraw and I would write nothing of Waldwen's dictation for months and sometimes years.  I went back to writing "Confessions Of An Honest Man", "The Shadow Storm", and other projects.  I wrote these as any writer writes: with pauses, edits, changes and alterations of plot and character.  The writing of THE GODS OF THE GIFT had none of these hesitations.  When WaldWen was present, the words came forth and that was that. 
Today WaldWen paid me a visit.  I had not heard from WaldWen in three years.  "You can tell the true story," said WaldWen.  "You can use my name and your name.  The world is ready for the concepts of Noetiphysics.  Pure scientists are ready to merge their techniques with artists, engineers and explorers of holotropic drugs such as psylocybin and peyote.  It is time for Noetiphysics to emerge as the new method for achieving both spiritual and technological progress.  It is time for human beings to become citizens of the Universe." I know that people will mock me, that I risk ridicule by claiming to have channeled this work.  I don't care.  I'm the book's first and greatest fan.  It's funny, deep, weird and very profound. 

About CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN


Old School. That's what this is, this book about a dysfunctional family that begins in 1957 and carries the reader through to the present day. I started this book in 1976. In '78 I made a splash by winning Best Short Story Award from Playboy Magazine. I signed with an agent and there was a lot of interest in this book. I had lunches with my editor in New York City. It was classic author-stuff, from another era. I had an opportunity but I wasn't ripe, the book wasn't ripe and I didn't finish it until 2014. I had to do some living before I could write the stories in this book.
            I've drawn a lot of autobiographical material into this narrative. I was the kind of kid that Aaron Kantro is in these pages. I was still in grade school when I first heard jazz on a recording by Louis Armstrong.   Can you imagine a twelve year old closeting himself in his bedroom and listening to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane? Can you imagine that today, or fifty years ago? This is a precocious lonely child.  He doesn't fit in well with his class mates.  He gets bullied but he doesn't cringe easily, doesn't give in.  
            Aaron's mother, Esther, is horrified. She regards any deviation from her plans as personal attacks. Her sons will become professionals.  They will be doctors or lawyers. Her daughters will marry socially prominent men of wealth and have two or three grandchildren apiece. She gets, instead, a dreamy musician who listens to what is called, in Yiddish,"Scvhatze music". She is convinced that her oldest son will become a bum playing at Bar Mitzvahs and her younger son...well...he's crazy, he goes into trances and hurts people and then he can't remember what he's done. Esther's dreams are fueled by a pathological insecurity that develops into full-blown Manic Depression, today's bi-polar disorder.  On top of her clinical disturbances, Esther is flat-out mean. She's sadistic and clever.
            This is starting to sound a little depressing.   I promise you, it's not. The book has darkness, of course. But it tracks the development of two creative children who get no support. They need determination and strength to follow their dreams.  The other two children are interesting in their monstrousness, their violence and greed.  By splitting the four children into two teams I've created a laboratory, showing the corrosive effects of parental abuse.  The outcomes depend on the child's innate moral nature.  Aaron and Sarah survive and become productive only through enormous courage and tenacity.
            This is the Kantro family. A father, a mother and four kids.  Two of the kids are sweet and two of them are monsters. Max knows that something is wrong in his family. It is the 60's and he has few tools available.  He's trying, but it's hard to maneuver through the family's emotional problems.  There's always trouble.  Aaron may be experimenting with drugs.  Somehow that's not so bad as Mark's propensity to collect weapons and lurk on the outskirts of thuggish mayhem.  The world  has yet to fill with more sophisticated knowledge. There are few books to be had  about family dynamics. Eating disorders are unknown. When Sarah dives into Bulimia, she hasn't a clue, nor does anyone else, about this compulsive behavior.  It's a total mystery and the only option is to put her in a mental hospital for a month or two.  
            In "Confessions Of An Honest Man" we travel the Hero's Journey with Aaron. He's brave enough to defy his mother. He goes to New York City at the fresh age of sixteen. He's searching for his jazz hero, the legendary Avian Coulter.
He finds Avian.   The man is Avant Garde, a polarizing figure in the jazz world.  He's also an addict.  Avian takes Aaron under his broken wings and turns him in the direction he needs to go.   He introduces Aaron to the successful blues n' bop saxophonist, Zoot Prestige.  Aaron needs to play Black, Aaron needs to be in Chitlin' Circuit clubs in Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis.  Avian trusts his friend Zoot more than he trusts himself.  Zoot will watch over Aaron and keep him from getting into too much trouble.  The gigs with the Zoot Prestige Trio are wonderfully goofy.  


            This is a fairly large book and it goes a lot of places. We meet Jimi Hendrix and we fight the Soviet Army with the Mujahiddin in the Eighties. Read the book.  F'god's sake, it's $2.99. Then leave a review.   Every author needs reviews.   Thanks for being here.