Be a Genius
Land of the Dacks
of New Destiny
at the Office
of your Options)
I would be a Genius
Barry Miles is a recent college
flunkout. Nineteen years old, rebellious, a poet striving to start out
as an artist, the immediate world around him doesn't appear to support
his high minded ambitions. In fact, the greater world seems to actually
negate his creative hopes and aspirations
"I saw my magnificent aesthetic monument wilting and fading all about
me, dissolving away, losing what little substance it had for not having
been cultivated. For that spirit-world I sought had to be exercised and
though drink offered me a certain freedom, a certain easy unity with that
world, my sober cold productive hours were fully occupied now by my job!
And though the world told me over and over and over again that I had to
work, had to support myself, bitterly I wondered at the quality of life
this demand returned to me if its truest recompense was to rob me of my
life? For work did nothing more for me than merely grant the brute necessities
of life. And by complying with this fundamental demand I received nothing
in return: not life nor adventure nor even any respect much less any form
of basic consideration or kindness or rewards at that office."
The question this novel explores is: can daily American economic life,
which colors the whole of the American experience, support a creative
youth just starting out? Or is there something basically antithetical
about the corporate world to creative thought and activity?
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The Industrial Park (1997)
"Hell is other people," a character in Sartre's No Exit tells
us. And for the employees of the Black and White Fire Equipment Company
this is mostly true. Written as a series of interior monologues (with
a touch of omniscient commentary) The Industrial Park enters into the
inner lives of these conflicted and conflicting souls. A tragedy? A comedy?
You as the reader would have to decide.
Download or Purchase paperback
In the Land of
the Dacks (2001)
If travel is "broadening" then John Sawyer's adventures in the
Land of the Dacks, an ancient third world country, are quite transformative.
And he becomes a new man.
"I was an American, and naturally superior, and that was that. I
didn't even question or consider my superiority, but merely took it completely
for granted as a given. But I was also an eager newcomer and tourist,
devouring all I saw all about me in the manner of tourists. For I would
be here only a brief time and would soon be gone, leaving all the native
problems of this complicated foreign land behind. Yes, I felt so much
taller, so much larger and grander and powerful in every way than these
tiny Dacks, these brown skinned little Dacks who seemed somehow pathetically
backward and blind and tainted by their awful poverty. What an extraordinary
spectacle of life I had walked into! A mere seventy four hours ago I had
boarded a large American jet plane in a large American airport, surrounded
by its corporate gloss and comforts, and in slightly less than a day had
arrived here in this ancient exotic land. And like any worldwide pillager
I would thoughtlessly take whatever I desired. Taking it only because
I could, and because I wished to have it. Without ever entertaining any
deep consideration for the locals."
Though events don't actually quite turn out that way. This is a novel
of ideas, introducing us to the ancient world and culture of the Dacks
as we follow John Sawyer's adventures in this far off land.
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The Port of New Destiny (2003)
Life is good. And Michael
Howard believes he has been uniquely chosen by fate for there is a singular
brightness about the world he uniquely enjoys. And looking about at others
on the street many appear sad, unfortunate, weighed down by life.
Twenty two years old, Michael has always chosen well and correctly throughout
his life: without making any large mistakes. And an adult now rigidly
believes in the wide corporate culture and world he has dedicated his
life to. For this larger corporate world offers its stability and seems
to epitomize everything America is truly about. It is America, Michael
believes. And the only sensible route forward to take in life.
Yes, life is good. All he has to do is continue choosing correctly: a
vital instinctive knack he has so far been gifted with. Part anti-war
novel, part love story, part coming of age adventure, this novel is yet
another exploration of the "American dream."
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Faces at the
Most novelists consider the daily routine of a menial job in an office
to be too dull and uninteresting to merit the treatment of a full length
novel. How can such an unchanging dull monotony hold the reader's attention,
they may ask? Though the clashes of the titans at the top have been fully
explored often enough.
The daily experience, though, of being at work in an office is one of
the most common experiences of everyday life. And for that reason merits
our attention. What's more, these basic realities should be more openly
dealt with. This is a novel about the simple daily experience of being
on the job. Of going to work everyday. A drama which is surely large enough
on its own. To see a short excerpt.
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"Listen. You have been seeking an answer. The answer. But in all
your nocturnal explorations you have not found it."
"Yes, yes. Then you know?"
"And you feel a great
negative tug throughout the world. Some mysterious force bringing you
and everything in the world down. Though you don't truly know what it
is. Or why."
"Yes. Yes. That's true."
"Nor do you know where it will all lead. Only that you are deeply
disconcerted and troubled, worse than troubled, even tortured, by this
persistent overbearing negative force. And wish some other larger force
reigned. A more universal joy in life. A profoundly positive force. That
humanity would not be so self-destructive. Or negative. And deep within
yourself you believe that most of this waste is simply foolish. Unneeded."
"Yes. Yes. That's all true."
"And unnecessary. You hate this dark negative aspect of life. All
this needless waste. And feel a need to explore it. And do, because you
have a great desire to understand. A need to know. Isn't that true?"
"Yes. Yes. You've got it. That's it. Who are you?"
Positive and negative, negative and positive, the two competing forces
within Carlton Phillips' deepest being. This is a novel about how he is
violently rocked by these forces. And finally surmounts them.
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This novel attempts to examine the nature of innocence and of living fully
without it. Dereck Kramer, recently released from prison, is constantly
tortured by his past. Much like a hard polished stone, a hard thing which
will never go away, his unalterable past forms a permanent memory now
which constantly arouses a flood of remorse and regrets. For his criminal
act had been the pivotal moment in his life destroying his life. If Dereck
Kramer originally started out with an eager, innocent optimism it finally
irrevocably changed on that evening long ago when he committed his crime:
leaving nothing but a lasting darkness: the flip side of the positive
bright optimism he had always known. And haunted by his past, pursued
by it, driven on by the unending furies of guilt and shame and disgrace
he struggles to begin again, to find a new way.
Can there be a new beginning or any true redemption for those who have
irrevocably "lost their innocence?"
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Which is simply what it says. A free download for your
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One Writer's Odyssey
"When I was young
it [writing novels] was the most exciting thing you could do...
It was more exciting to be a major novelist than to be a movie
star. That was then. Today you could line up 10 major novelists
and three teenagers would run them down in order to shake a movie
star's hand, male or female. No, the fact of the matter is that,
the novel may be on the way out. You know, essentially from now
we may be as the only people who practice it. We are the kind
of people who write five act verse plays in iambic pentameter."
Norman Mailer, speaking at the New York Public Library, June 27,
as a form of validation. A seal of authenticity. It reveals that someone
in the publishing world believes your work is good enough to distinguish
it from the mountain of dreck which daily arrives on his desk. That at
least it has passed through the scrutiny of an unbiased professional judge
who believes enough in your work to put up his own money to present it
to the world. Hoping people will buy and read it.
For, certainly, the vast majority of unpublished
works tend to be bad. They can often be quite bad: presumptuous, vulgar,
untalented, wildly eccentric or, simply put, an amateurish and ungripping
read. And even if they constitute a form of "good medicine,"
something which ought to be read, they can, perhaps worst of all, be dull.
(Though many ugly human traits often emerge in the work of some highly
popular authors, such as Mickey Spillane. The irony being that much of
what is published is dreck too.)
That is the company the unpublished author
keeps. Nor, until he is finally published, can he even legitimately call
himself an author. Or even a writer. For the inevitable question which
follows an introduction to a well disposed stranger often enough is: "Oh,
you write, do you? And what have you published?" And the empty blank
the unpublished author responds with can surely awaken that tiny ironic
amused smile we are all so familiar with. For everyone knows anyone can
write, but to be a genuine author, a true writer, one must publish. That
is the true seal of authenticity.
So upon being introduced and asked what
he does the unpublished may lamely only offer his day job as an answer:
the mundane means by which he earns his daily bread. For not existing
yet as an author he cannot admit with any pride that he writes. Never
mind that he rises up early every morning to work two or three hours a
day. That his entire inner and spiritual life is tied to this deep aesthetic
quest, attempting to bring something meaningful and new to life. For,
indeed, we the unpublished are in a sense much like the undead. Our work
denied, unrecognized, non-existent in the eyes of the world. And whoever
comes across it naturally enough will balk at ever reading it. For, after
all, it is unpublished. It has not received a stamp of authenticity. It
has not passed the basic test. And considering the overwhelming odds in
all probability it merely truly is more dreck. A painful and difficult
experience to read. And if that reader also happens to be a friend of
the writer isn't he, that poor friend, placed into the terribly embarrassing
situation of becoming forced to say something nice? To compliment his
writer friend's work? Though, in truth, he thinks it is actually bad?
So we, the unpublished, are much like the
undead. And for many years now I have kept a deep cover. And only rarely
have discussed my creative work with anyone. For not only lacking the
"authenticity" and bona fides to openly speak out about my own
work as an author I also do not care to discuss what I am currently doing.
For writing is an extremely private matter and bringing in any outsider,
no matter how sensitive or sympathetic, can be ruinous, a terrible distraction.
Writing must be performed in private: in a state of near secrecy. And
talking about a work in progress can often be a sure way of ruining it.
What's more, at one time I suffered from
a writer's block which, to me, seemed like one of the most persistent
on record. A Guinness sized block which lasted more than two decades.
For I have only truly desired to do one thing in my life: to write. And
this block endured from my late teens into my late thirties. During that
time I simply could not continue or finish anything I started: for on
the following day I would simply stare at what I had done the previous
day with an unyielding, unmoving blank.
Why was I so cramped in this manner? There
were many reasons, the desire just to "live" being one. I was
often more drawn to the beckoning sunshine outofdoors than to the solitary
quiet and shadows of my writing desk. (How poorly I understood Proust's
need for a corklined room then!) I drank a great deal too and hangovers,
like the common flu, can be a great impediment to writing. But most foolish
of all, revealing my worst misconception regarding creativity, I relied
upon inspiration to write.
This great misconception and reliance on
my part derived from my earliest experiences at writing. For in my late
teens I often felt an exultant rush of inspiration whenever I wrote a
page or two, experiencing what I believed to be a transcendent leap. And
desiring to be a literary artist - most certainly not a mere commercial
"hack" - I always hoped to be motivated by that transcendent
rush each time I sat down to write: believing the only truly good creative
writing resulted from this spark.
You may be thinking this was foolish on
my part? And you are certainly right. For inspiration comes to those who
work. What I should have done, starting in my late teens, was persevere:
set apart a certain fixed time of day, during the morning or at night,
to faithfully work - every day - during that dedicated time. And perhaps
I should not have been quite so self-critical, loosening the cramp of
my block by focusing more on my theme, by concentrating on it every day.
For, as I said, inspiration comes to those who work.
Tomorrow for an artist can be a
great friend. For tomorrow is always another day. Tomorrow an
artist can review what he did today and try to correct it or do it over
again. But the point is that an artist has to work without idling, or
waiting to begin. For there no excuses for not doing so. He will accomplish
nothing if he does not work. That simple maxim may be quite obvious but
it needs repeating: an artist will accomplish nothing if he waits to be
hit by a lightening bolt out of the blue. Unless he happens to be very,
But when I reached my thirty seventh year
(1977) a miracle occurred. At that age I saw that forty was quick approaching.
That if I continued in this empty manner by the time I reached my fortieth
year I would have written nothing. That my lifelong ambition would become
no more than a sterile dream, accomplishing nothing. So in a somewhat
urgent state of surrender I sat down at my desk one day, yet again, and
tried to write. I wrote without hope. I wrote thinking that in all probability
I would never finish what I started. I wrote without taking any of my
words too seriously, without seeking transcendence. I wrote because it
was now or never, this was it. And a miracle occurred. For on the following
day I was able to continue what I had started the day before. And on the
day following that I was still able to continue. And each day I developed
my story a little further. The miracle had happened! I was actually writing
something! I was able to continue it! And what's more inspiration, I discovered,
soon followed the beginning of each day's writing stint.
The story becomes a little complicated now,
what with graduate school, entering a profession, one thing and another.
But this first novel of mine, The Adventures of Jamie Budlow, eventually
extended to more than fifteen hundred typewritten pages. It is still raw,
perhaps amateurish. Unfinished. For I have not been able to re-read it.
What's more, I wrote it before the word processor became a common writer's
tool. And to work on it once again would require putting all those fifteen
hundred pages onto a computer. A Herculean task, I'm sure you would agree.
Then in nineteen eighty eight (ten years
after my father died) my mother died. I had recently been toying with
the idea of writing a biography of my father, writing brief sketches here
and there. Wondering how I would put the biography of such a fascinating
life together. And having recently finished my first novel I also felt
I had the liberty now to tell my father's story: the story of an artist-soldier
which in many ways was quite heroic and passionate.
I finished my first draft of Waiting at
the Shore sometime in the early nineteen nineties. And then my experiences
with the publishing world began. I met literary agents, publishers and
several writers. Many expressed great enthusiasm and I am quite proud
of the long distance phonecall I received one afternoon from that New
York publishing "legend," Alan Williams, who enthusiastically
praised my book and invited me to his home in New Jersey for dinner. (That
being, I later learned, a traditional means of welcoming a new writer
to the writing world.) I also received several recommendations from famous
authors and, after many years, during which time I revised and polished
my book, improving it, a university press finally took a serious interest
in publishing it. The editor - a woman - was kind and sensitive and we
could have perhaps worked well together. But in the world of university
publishing a "peer" review is required. And an anonymous distinguished
scholar volunteered to review my book: a man who professed to admire my
father. To this day I have no idea who this scholar was for in the world
of academic publishing a "peer" reviewer often remains anonymous.
There are understandable reasons for this but on the other hand an author's
curiosity is naturally aroused. An author would like to know just who
it is who has expressed these opinions which have such a significant influence
on the future of his book.
Though he confessed he couldn't put Waiting
at the Shore down my peer reviewer really didn't like the book very much.
And since I had taken several large swaths from my father's memoirs (at
the time unpublished) to incorporate into my text the reviewer suggested
I "convert" what I had done into an "autobiography."
But this would have been an entirely different book. And since I had already
cut the length of my manuscript in half to adjust to the publisher's "price
point" I turned down the university's offer of a contract for the
book the reviewer envisioned: which would have been a scholarly version
(it was being published by a university press after all) of a story which
was not at all scholarly in spirit.
Bad luck, huh? Since several distinguished
authors and scholars have also read the self-published version of Waiting
at the Shore and have complimented me highly for it. Following this experience
with the university I sent out a few more queries and began to receive
only standard rejection slips. From the great enthusiasm and interest
at the start of this journey, several years earlier, to finally the blank
anonymity of an unsigned conventional rejection slip. We, the unpublished,
all know what they look like. It was as if the whole enterprise had simply
finally petered out and the publishing world displayed its vast indifference
by no longer even acknowledging my basic efforts.
This process, the process of attempting
to find a publisher for Waiting at the Shore, lasted over several years.
By now I had become a librarian in the San Francisco Public Library. And
one of the advantages of working there was a fairly flexible schedule.
I could come in late in the morning and write at home for two or three
hours before leaving for work. Also, being at work in the library was
a good way of forgetting what I had written that morning, so that it would
appear newly fresh when I looked at it again the following morning. So
while I was attempting to find a publisher for Waiting at the Shore I
continued to write. And, no, I didn't tell any of the contacts I made
in the publishing world about what I was doing. Following that first novel
(1500 typewritten pages long) I wrote seven more. These are the books
I am offering here.
I spent five or six years searching for
a publisher for Waiting at the Shore. (A friend once sympathetically explained
the reason why I finally couldn't find a publisher was because my father
wasn't famous. And he may have been right.) But during that search I obtained
a glimpse of the mentality of several professionals in the publishing
business. And haven't attempted to find a publisher (with the exception
of one) for any of these novels because I am convinced of the utter futility
of doing so. Why put myself through that ordeal all over again, waiting
anxiously for replies? For I know that even if any one of these novels
artistically succeeds it will never be published. The barriers are simply
Speaking once to a literary agent I earnestly
informed him that the only thing that mattered to me about Waiting at
the Shore was if it succeeded "artistically and intellectually."
I can still vividly recall the suppressed amusement that agent revealed
at the presumptuousness of this bold assertion. And he came close to openly
laughing at me. To believe, as an author, that my work may have some importance
or genuine worth may indeed be presumptuous, but to desire it to be an
artistic success should not be. For why else write? Samuel Johnson famously
asserted "no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."
But there are far quicker and safer means of becoming rich than writing.
And such expressions of sophisticated cynicism don't belie the fact that
most genuine writers write because they are compelled to. For if an aspiring
unpublished author focusses upon the accomplishments of Faulkner and Hemingway
instead of Ludlum and Clancy it's not because he necessarily compares
himself to Faulkner or Hemingway. It's because he doesn't care about Ludlum
and Clancy. For why else become an artist if not to also enter the great
game, attempting to succeed both intellectually and artistically? To do
something truly valuable? Which is always a risk, a step into the unknown.
When I sought a literary agent many years
ago only a few took an interest in my work. (None finally represented
me.) And I soon discovered that agents can be rather touchy people. They
are proud people and would like to believe that they foster talent, discovering
new talented authors. That mere crass commercialism doesn't fully motivate
them but that they have an eye out for genuine quality: for good and new
and talented authors. But scratch the surface of an agent's lofty literary
posture and you will soon discover that "quality" is indeed
defined as that which actually sells. And that a "platform"
is often required by new authors. For, after all, publishing is a business,
not a charitable enterprise. And the world of publishing has certain high
The largest enemy of all art is, perhaps,
fashion, whether it be conservative or avant garde. In the world of corporate
publishing, under the pressure of the ever higher profit margins the parent
companies place, there are numerous formulas for success. And that which
is truly original is not included among them. For not having been tried
the original may not be profitable. And fostering the arts, experimental
or otherwise, is not the publisher's mission unless a guarantee of high
earnings accompany it. Which is why most new authors require a "platform."
In other words, guarantees which have nothing to do with the innate value
of a manuscript, unless it catches the eye of a publisher or agent as
a sure winner. Fitting, in all probability, a known formula. Though true
enough, an instinct for satisfying an agreeable public can be highly helpful.
I can not speak for my own work. It may,
in truth, be quite bad. A literary failure. And it may not deserve to
be published or read. But there is no societal mirror available to me
which can offer a worthy criticism of my work. And I would like to know
the truth about the actual literary value of these novels too. Nor will
I find that by stepping out once again into the publishing world. Not
even, if I had the stomach for it, by searching among the small non-profit
publishers. And the only feedback available to me can come from you, the
What's more, the novel no longer possesses
the exalted standing it once had. The mass electronic corporate media
has taken over that cultural position as the widespread modernday mirror
of American life. The pressure of popular culture on the arts has always
been large. But art, high art, always had its place. Today it has become
an even smaller artifact of the larger culture. The great novel as an
artistic mirror of society is becoming, as Norman Mailer pointed out,
a museum piece. And we speak of great artists and writers as if they were
all notables out of our historic past. Though some of us are old enough
today to remember when many great names were still alive and working among
us. Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck. No more. And this is true not only
of literature but of all the arts. The corporation has become monolithic
and reaches today into all aspects of modern American life. But the human
spirit can not die even in an artificial culture, where its human roots
may be smothered. Creativity never vanishes. How will it find its expression
in the future? In the new technologies perhaps? In those mediums undominated
by corporate power?
There is indeed no such thing as a dull
work of art. So I hope that these novels of mine are not at all dull as
well as artistic and intellectual successes. Are they any good? I am,
of course, aware of what I tried to accomplish. And sense some pride and
excitement about what I did. But the artist, or writer, can never be the
final judge of his own success. That is up to you. Though you, too, may
not be of one opinion: so the question may only remain unanswered, pro
or con. That's the way it sometimes is with art, at least for a long time.
For only time is the surest critic of art.