Wednesday, January 20, 2016

About Elf and Bear

One fine day in 1980 or so, when I was sitting around in my Junior English class, having finished my work early, I was doodling around on some lined paper when I came up with the drawing above. Something about the characters of the figures appealed to me, although I later realized that they were way out of proportion to each other (the Bear was way smaller than he should have been and of course the Elf way larger; their scale, I later determined, should be more a Baloo-and-Mowgli type thing). I kept drawing sketches of the two over the years, both separately and together, and began to have a more solidified idea about their personality and surroundings.

Finally when I decided to at last sit down in earnest and write a book, I chose these two as a jumping off point. I had read the famous advice (I cannot remember right now who first said it; Dumas?) that if one persevered and wrote just one page a day, by the end of the year you would have a book of 365 pages. I decided my book would not be epic, but episodic, each month would be one adventure in one chapter. So I persisted, and by the end of little more than a year I did have a book.

Then my mother suddenly died, and I was sunk in a profound gloom. I had dedicated many years of my life to taking care of her, and now a great reason to strive keep going seemed lost. One of the factors that helped pull me out of that gloom was my brother Mike volunteering to help me transcribe and edit my handwritten notebooks into a more presentable state.

We had finished that task when not long after Mike passed away suddenly, leading to more depression and terrible inertia. I had to sell the old family house and get a job in town to help support the charity I was now living on from my sister. In the meantime, the format that we had saved the book on had gone out of style, and every time I almost transcribed the printed pages, some new computer crash would come along and wipe out whatever work I had done. At least I had the foresight before the last crash to mail the completed chapters to my brother John, and so only the lost the bulk of the chapter I had been working on. I am now going to try going back to task again, and in the meantime mean to put the story up here, a few pages at a time, to see what people (if anyone actually reads it) think of it. I'll probably start putting it out there later today.

It turns out to be a kind of book that doesn't get written much these days; the closest analog I can think (to compare it to something much greater) would be The Wind in the Willows. Elf and Bear have developed into the two sides of me, a sort of Fantastic Odd Couple if you will. Although I had no idea where I was going when I started, an overarching theme developed and is worked out in the last chapters, if we can stick to them for so long. Meanwhile, I hope it will be a pleasant ride, full of incident and accident.

One thing we could never settle on was a good title for the whole story. For years we just called it Elf-and-Bear; in the revisions Mike suggested we should really call it Bear-and-Elf. Anyway, if anyone can think of a better title I'd love to hear it, because I'm stumped.

No comments: