Archive for October, 2014

A little wisdom from the ex-reporter world

Stubbornly analog. Chicago, October 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

Stubbornly analog. Chicago, October 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

I finished reading All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren and at some point soon will have a review of it up. I’ll say now that it is one of the most affecting books I’ve read in many a year because its narrator seems to understand me perfectly.

It definitely inspired me to get out of this funk I’ve been in lately and spruce up the apartment a bit, including a bit of decoration I haven’t busted out in a while. I gave All The King’s Men pride of place and even banged out my favorite quote. Maybe it’ll be a conversation piece if I ever have anybody over to this damn place.

"Well son," I said. "

“Well son,” I said. “If you live long enough you’ll find out there some kinds of a son-of-a-bitch you don’t have to be even to be a newspaperman.”

On finding the objectivity in subjectivity

I began my personal essays because, as I’ve said, I worried a little bit about actually being able to remember some of the insane shit that has befallen me over the past year or two. What ended up happening as I did so, though, was that I needed to draw in more of the crap that’s happened to me before, and that’s where we get to the true difficulty of any autobiographer: Where do you start this whole thing?

Today I had a friend over who had a look at one of my essays about leaving the newspaper business. It’s something I had written while lounging about in Colombia before the bitterness had worn off. In the superb All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, the narrator describes “The Big Sleep,” some lethargy that came over him when he left the newspaper business. I was still deep into that very phenomenon when I wrote it. Of course, after my friend had a look at it, it was clear that it needed a lot of work.

A long to-do list. | Patrick Andrews

A long to-do list. | Patrick Andrews

The other essay I’ve been tackling – and probably the one into which I’ve put the most work – is one on bullfights, though it is really about Colombia. Similarly, I wrote the earliest draft of that in the grip of emotion. I pounded it out almost obsessively. I was a guest in the apartment of my gay Colombian uncle Pacho plus my father and his husband at the time, and I worked so singlemindedly on it over the course of about a week that they remarked upon it.

And, like this essay about leaving the noble profession of journalism, I found that while that first head of steam got the general idea out, hunkering down and really editing, organizing, and elaborating on that original draft is how you actually make the god damn thing readable.

My eventual plan is to see if I can get a book of essays published, and I may even do it as a self-published work. As I figure out just where the hell this will all begin and end, it’s useful to remember that even inherently subjective stuff like personal essays have a craft to them.

Out among the rain

A Jamundeño enjoying the festivities. | Jamundí, Colombia, Halloween 2013.

A Jamundeño enjoying the festivities. | Jamundí, Colombia, Halloween 2013.

The weather has been somewhat erratic lately. As we enter October, we haven’t quite entered autumn yet, which remains my favorite time of year. I missed it completely in Colombia last year, leaving the country in mid-October, before it ever really even got nippy out.

I’m glad it’s coming back now, even if it is slow to come.

Tonight it is under the false impression that it is raining outside, and so at this late hour I’m settling in to write a bit more of Long September. I’ve reached a difficult part, where many moving pieces all collide at once. I’ve determined I’m going to shoot my through it, and not be hamstrung by worries.

The picture is a throwback to the spooky time of year that begins now. The houses down the street have put up the pumpkins and ghosts. It seems as good a time as any to write of places we don’t dare to go.