Wednesday, January 13, 2010
West Coast and the South East
Comparing life in the Carolinas with life in California is like looking at 2 different worlds. California seems like a whole new country than a state in the Union. One state seems to aspire towards societal order; heritage and family ties while the other state to disruption, creativity and self expression. But the story is not that simple. After all, the Carolinas is also about historical rebelliousness and state rights. Some traces still exist in today’s political life in the South. So there are more similarities than meets the eye as more modern high tech cities are also growing in the South East.
One thing is certain though are the diversity of the West Coast. The diverse ethnicity is immediately noticeable. The Pacific Ocean is the gateway to the East so there are modern ‘refugees’ from Asia spilling across the waters. The Spanish influence is still there with more people spilling over the border. In fact Los Angeles in the weekend is still a Mexican city. On the other hand, the Atlantic Ocean brings over the old world of Europe. One could see the European ethnicity that is more prevalent here although there is an Asian presence which is more Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese and Filipino. The common element in both states is the Latin American presence though at a lesser extent in the South.
Perception seems to indicate that one state is still based on the aristocracy of blood or family ties while the other on the aristocracy of talent and meritocracy. Perceptions can be wrong though one cannot forget history. California is more a boom and bust town with the gold rush, Silicon Valley, earth quakes, the dot com boom and so on. It is also home to one of the more promising writers today: Michael Chabon. One could understand the state through their writers with Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner for the South and Jack London and John Steinbeck for the West Coast.
An interesting writer for the West is Jack Kerouac. I guess he started the stream of consciousness type of writing that I have yet to read. One would easily mistake Hemingway as having done that type of writing due to his seemingly effortless prose but I know a lot of hard work has gone into his books. It’s this mistaken impression that led me into a wrong path thinking that I could ‘wing it’ in a stream of consciousness mode ala James Joyce in ‘Ulysses’. But the craft of writing is lost and not taken into account. One has stayed too long in this mode of working and finally realizes the mistake.
In the spirit of California, one is endlessly trying to reinvent and discover one’s true self. The place if filled with institutes espousing some new and old theories like Eastern meditation, yoga and so on. For instance, driving along Big Sur, we passed the Eselen Institute – the retreat of the rich and famous baby boomers. There is this prevailing longing for the next best thing – whether in self discovery, software or film. This is the attraction of California and in it’s spirit one tries to be a writer.
I guess my method is more holistic due to my procrastination or misunderstanding than anything else. The illusion of the stream of consciousness method of Jack Kerouac and the seemingly effortless prose of James Joyce and Hemingway made me a poorer writer. Lately I just finished reading Robert Wolf’s ‘Jump Start’ which aims to make writers out of homeless or out of work people. It’s an interesting concept to learn from. One can learn by reading about the many methodologies out there such as the ‘snow flake method’, the ‘hero of the thousand faces’ theory of Joseph Campbell and so on. I guess my old path is more like journal writing – reading – reflecting – speaking methodology as a more holistic approach of development was aspired to.
One will not get very far from the stream of consciousness writing. One is more on the Kerouac method than one realizes but lack the special talent to achieve concrete results. One has realized that it’s more mental constancy and loss of interest or lack the commitment or conviction that is the culprit. The writing craft is still missing and the many reading one has done in the past 2 years should be enough to fashion out a working craft or methodology. At the end of the day, it is the spirit of California that inspires one to move forward.