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Monthly Archives: July 2013

“The Annunciation” has shown surprising popularity on Smashwords and its third-party vendors, given the story’s brevity and gritty setting. Or maybe the vignette’s brevity and grittiness is why it’s being downloaded–and the fact that it’s free. Sail on little story!

“The Annunciation” is, as the title suggests, about a moment of revelation. But such monumental awareness does not occur in a vacuum; it follows on the heels of a larger life event, or series of events. That’s what gives the revelation significance–not the understanding but the understanding after the weeks or months or years of experience, of life in all its fullness. And “The Annunciation” only alludes fleetingly to some of these major events in Zach’s life. Most of the experiences and all of the details are left out.

Earlier in this blog, I talked about working outward from a moment of perfection through the relationship surrounding that moment through the whole life experience surrounding that relationship. In some ways, that moment of perfection in Zach’s life, chronicled in a story titled “Whiteout,” is the bookend to this moment of revelation. At the one end of the spectrum, you have Zach totally immersed in an experience to the point that he doesn’t think about what is happening–he’s simply living in that moment. At the other end of the spectrum, the entire experience of “The Annunciation”–from encountering his past classmates in the bar to going home with his brother’s former girlfriend–is couched in memory and reflection, without a present tense or future possibility.

But what happens between these bookends? What gives “Whiteout” exuberance and “The Annunciation” gravity? What set of choices and actions, unions and separations, combine to form answers to the endless questions surrounding these two stories, combine to populate the narrative world from which these brief scenes arise? The first step toward answering those questions is a fictional memoir titled Becca’s Book. It will be published first in serial form on the blog Reading and Recipes (http://readingandrecipes.wordpress.com) starting in August. I’ll send out a reminder once the serialization starts.

In the meantime, check out “The Annunciation” if you haven’t already done so. It can be found here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333949.

JA

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At one bar, a grungy hole-in-the-wall called 17 Stop after the highway it bordered, it seemed an impromptu high-school reunion with so many of Zach’s classmates, especially teammates from the basketball team, sprinkled about the packed room. Some of those players were already almost incoherent, slurring their words and leaving their arms over his shoulder not out of affection but for support. Others shook his hand like they were trying to break it off or punched his shoulder harder than playful familiarity, asking what he was doing with his life and why he hadn’t gone on to play college ball. Zach kept his responses short and superficial, feeling like he’d been dropped in a surreal dream populated by changed faces he almost recognized but couldn’t quite grasp.

The 17 Stop is where “The Annunciation” starts out–just your typical small-town bar on a Friday night. But it’s not where Zach, or “The Annunciation,” ends up. Sometimes life’s most profound revelations arise from the most mundane, and in this case profane, of circumstances. And sometimes their appearance is quite sudden, and almost always unexpected. And usually they come in the form of a person.

“The Annunciation” was recently published on smashwords.com. The link is http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333949.

Enjoy.

Is it just me, or are there a lot of articles on suicide lately? I’ve come across four in the last month–suicide in Japan, suicide among veterans, suicide among teens, and increased suicide rates among middle-aged Americans. In what was surely an effort by my unconscious to dilute the morbidity of the subject, after the last article (suicide in Japan) I thought about a question that relates to suicide but has much broader implications for our lives. How do we perceive death? Just a small question, right? So my mind broke it down further–On an individual basis, do we see death as an end (of life) or a beginning (of something else)? This question relates to suicide (is the suicidal one running away from something or toward something?) but also has implications for the lives–our attitudes and actions–of all of us.

First things first–death is for everyone both an end and a beginning (even if this beginning is only the absence of life and reality as we’ve known it). However, I doubt any of us view these two conditions in exact balance at any time in our lives. One or the other aspect of death will prevail whenever we stop to consider the question. Further, the aspect that prevails will probably change over the course of one’s life, perhaps year-to-year, or even day-to-day during times of heightened sensitivity or stress.

There’s one more layer to apply to this simplified philosophical and practical question–Once an individual determines if death is perceived as an end or a beginning, is that condition viewed as positive or negative? In other words, if death is seen as an end, is the individual happy or sad about that; if seen as a beginning, is that hopeful or feared? I had one friend who saw death as an end and loved life so much that he was terrified by the idea of that end. I had another friend who was in such deep and ongoing pain that he longed for the end that death would grant. Alternatively, for those who see in death a beginning, I’ve known deeply religious people who looked forward to that beginning; I’ve also known people who saw death as entrance into a dark and ominous unknown, and viewed the prospect with dread.

Suicidal individuals must, at some level, perceive death as either a positive end–the final escape from a deeply pained life–or a hopeful beginning–entrance into something better than their current experience. But what about the rest of us? Do we see death as a frightening end and respond by clinging more desperately to the loves we have, seeking more assiduously the joys we know? Or do we see death as the beginning of something unknown and therefore unsettling, and run from it (insofar as that’s possible) or at a minimum avoid thinking about it?

And now here’s the interesting part–what events in our lives or psyches cause us to change our view of death? What physical or spiritual unveiling might cause a suicidal person to long for an end one night and cling to precious life the next morning? What experience might cause a non-suicidal person to run from death’s unknown one day, then check out every book in the library on death and spirituality the next? If these sorts of 180-degree changes occur, what triggers them? Can such reversals be intentional? Facilitated by outside forces or only from within? Biological or psychological or spiritual? Drug-induced? Age-related? Environmental? Seasonal? The list of potential factors could be long indeed.

And what do answers to these questions–still ponderous despite attempts at simplification–say about us as individuals, families, societies, cultures? Maybe little, maybe a lot.

I’m preparing to publish a short story titled “The Annunciation.” It’s very short, a vignette excerpted from a longer work. In the climax of the vignette, a young woman who has survived a suicide attempt reflects on the meaning of that act and its outcome, not so much for herself as for the enlightenment of an old friend she’s chanced upon, or maybe been sent to. I’ll get you the link once I’ve published it.

JA