General

This 1994 Cast

I believe I am understanding you better than ever. Based on the number of likes and the comments on my previous two posts (here and here), you are “a bunch of” romantics too. 🙂 So I thought I’d finish this week on this note: it may interest you in much the same way.

Have you seen this? I shared yesterday on Instagram that I’d I read that a previously unpublished Ernest Hemingway 1956 short story is being published for the first time. It appears it’s *way* different than anything we’ve seen of his before.🤔

In this one, okay, now, apparently his narrator – who bears nooooooo resemblance at all to Hemingway – and others are drinking wine and talking about war in a hotel bar… and (wait for it, because you won’t believe this, really) they’re in Paris.😉😁🇺🇸🇫🇷

I know. Amazing, isn’t it? The Associated Press explains:

“A Room on the Garden Side” takes place in the Ritz hotel (Hemingway liked to say that he liberated the Ritz bar) and is narrated by a Hemingway stand-in called Robert who shares the author’s own nickname — Papa. Robert and his entourage drink wine, quote from Baudelaire and debate “the dirty trade of war.”

By the way, “Robert” is also an excellent name for a main character.

I’ve discussed Hemingway on here before. Anyone who writes – especially, men – cannot fully escape his influence. Jokingly we used to call my (now late) uncle – who was a crime novelist – “Hemingway.”

[When space becomes an issue. My desk. Photo by me, 2018.]

In the summer of 2017, after Conventions: The Garden At Paris was finished and finally published, I decided to try a change of writing direction. I would write a romantic travel (there’s another shocker, I know) short story set in the current day. I thought I might publish it – along with maybe one or two other similar shorts – as a collection only for the Kindle.

However, within a month or two the idea blew up in my face. What I had ended up writing was, uh, not very good – and that’s probably being kind. I have since filed it away inside of my PC; I have even considered deleting it, but I always step back from that edge of no return. While I can barely even look at it again because, frankly, I am embarrassed by it, maybe someday I will return to it and attempt to make it publishable.

Maybe.

Most definitely I don’t want anyone else to read it as it is. What is published is what is meant for the world to see. So certainly I DO NOT want that story published after I’m dead. [NOTE to anyone – especially family or friends who end up with my PC or papers – if you find it after I’m gone: I swear I’ll come back from the dead and haunt you if you publish it.]

Following that short story (thankfully, private) debacle, and a further several months’ break to clear my head (the longest span in five years that I had not written much of anything), although I had not planned to when I wrote Conventions, I began to plot out another novel that followed along similar lines. Thus the one good that came from it. Thanks to that dire short story, I realized once and for all that – first and foremost – I write novels.

I suppose because I like characters so much, I also find short stories just too limiting; they don’t give me the space to develop the people. There simply isn’t the time in less than about 20,000 words. The characters end up thin, or just symbolism.

With a full novel, though, they can be so much more…

“James” is not a bad name for a main character and/or narrator either. Having done it the other day for Conventions, I thought for some additional fun I would do the same for my earlier series. I would present character “briefs” here in one place.

So, Passports, Frontiers, and Distances: here we go:

  • James Prenderville: Twenty-nine year old, Long Island, New York, adult student; half-Irish American, half-Italian American; introspective and bookish; decided he doesn’t want to take over the family construction business and wishes instead to become a high school teacher; feels with thirty approaching, he had better finally start to get his life together. He has lived in Alaska, but has never been to Europe.
  • Isabelle Baudouin: She is responsible for all of this; twenty-four year old Frenchwoman from Lorient and Paris; statuesque; talkative; seeks to make friends everywhere. Considered somewhat “immature” by her father. Uproots herself to study in America for a year, and in September 1994 ends up at a university in New York’s Long Island suburbs and sits right in front of James the first day of their history class.
  • Bill Lombardi: James’s upper-fifties age uncle; a raconteur, and the sort of man who attracts an admiring crowd; a retired police detective and successful crime novelist – and notorious womanizer – divorced from James’s Italian-German aunt, and living now in Newport, Rhode Island.
  • Mark Johnson: James’s closest friend since they were in elementary school; now a Long Island police officer and post-graduate criminal justice student.
  • Virginie Rousseau: Lorient friend of Isabelle’s from childhood, and the same age. Known as always smiling, yet considered a bit “scatter-brained” at times, too; surprisingly old-fashioned also in some ways in her worldview. Had been an au pair in suburban Washington D.C. in 1991-92, but every American guy she had met disappointed her.
  • Béatrice Rolland: Another similar age Lorient friend of Isabelle’s from when they were kids; subversive, sarcastic, and not easily impressed by anything or anyone. Has never been to the U.S. and has never thought much of it; and doesn’t like to speak English because Americans speak it. Yet all of that is also just on the surface…
  • Valérie Khoury: Met Isabelle at university in Paris when they were both eighteen; her father is a Lebanese airline executive and her mother is French; reserved among new acquaintances to the point she may come across as aloof, and even arrogant; seems “closed off” at times even to friends; but underneath it all she has a warm and sentimental personality. Men are drawn to her appearance and style: she never encounters a new pair of designer shoes or a new handbag she can resist.
  • Natalie Hall-Surrey: Thirty-ish English woman who moved to Paris several years earlier to live with her French boyfriend, Stéphane; almost French fluent, uninhibited, artsy, and offbeat in her demeanor. Now considers herself at times almost more French than English.
  • Stéphane Blandin: Thirty-ish French businessman; charming and gregarious. Met Natalie when he lived for a time in London.
  • Joanne Prenderville: James’s Italian-American mother. Demonstrative; at times seemingly neurotic; but always caring. Never one not to share her opinion on virtually anything.
  • Jim Prenderville: James’s soft-spoken Irish-American father; has learned thanks to decades of marriage to Joanne how to be an Italian-American. Owns the family construction business in partnership with his brother.
  • Maki Hasegawa: Isabelle’s university roommate in New York; half-Japanese, half-Korean; surprisingly tall and outgoing. Majoring in Spanish literature, she has bought into all things American and says she’d be happy never to go back to Japan.
  • Elena Astamirova: Isabelle’s new friend at the university in New York; distractingly good-looking, blonde, and pleasant; Russian; MBA student. Clearly very well off financially, but it is unclear to everyone as to where her family’s money actually comes from.

There are other important characters, of course. However, those there are the main ones with whom it all starts. And they are around, more or less, for all of the books. Time never stops. There is “A Room on the Garden Side.” There may be also, we might say, “A View from a Park Bench”…

[Excerpt from Distances. Paperback. Click to expand.]

Where will we all be in 2036, eighteen years from now? Do we want even to think about it? Shall we hazard a guess or two? (“President Kim Kardashian has just returned to the White House today after a grueling series of NATO meetings in Brussels…” I no longer rule anything out.)

Unlike for Conventions, in which most of the fictional characters are more a “mishmash” in my mind than based on any “one” or “two” actually living, or once living, people, I could pretty much tell you point-blank precisely who every one of those fictional characters above is based upon. “Fiction” is almost never entirely “fictitious.” As my uncle once told me: “Fiction comes from fact, and lots of fact makes great fiction when you re-write it as fiction.” (I want that in my obituary. 😉 )

Have a good reading and writing weekend, wherever you are in the world. 🙂