In an essay titled “The Story of a Novel,” Thomas Wolfe – who had a very strong influence on my writing, and, in my opinion, is one of the greatest autobiographical fiction writers of all time, as well as an author who can easily be considered a memoirist – presented an elaborate sketch about his powerful, unable-to-stop, writing habits that should be mandatory reading for any budding writer. The quality of his memory, he explained, was characterized “in more than ordinary degree by the intensity of sense, impressions, its power to evoke and bring back the odors, sounds, colors, shapes, and feel of things with concrete vividness.” My memory does not bring back such vividness as the marvelous Thomas Wolfe. But my memory is yet vivid in other ways that I try to expose to the best of my abilities in my memoir writing.
Wolfe also wrote, in the same essay, that “all serious creative work must be at bottom autobiographical, and that a man must use the material and experience of his own life if he is to create anything that has substantial value.”
In one important section of his essay Wolfe wrote what has become a possible title to my own memoir (after innumerable false titles that caused more troublesome confusion than perhaps writing itself): “Where Now?” Under this heading within the more than 1 million words Wolfe submitted to his editor Max Perkins (who was also editor for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Earnest Hemingway) for his second novel “Of Time and the River,” Wolfe wrote about “those thousands of things which all of us have seen for just a flash, just a moment in our lives, which seem to be of no consequence whatever at the moment that we see them, and which live in our minds and hearts forever, which are somehow pregnant with all the joy and sorrow of the human destiny, and which we know, somehow, are therefore more important than many things of more apparent consequences. Where Now?”
So, I carry on.
This memoir is about growing up in the 50s and 60s; leaving the neighborhood of my youth in my twenties (the 70s) on several far-flung journeys that took me across both the Atlantic and the Pacific, for periods of time ranging from three months, to three years; living a profligate life until my late twenties (the 80s); getting educated in my early thirties; getting married in my middle thirties; becoming a father near the end of my third decade and into my fourth decade (the 90s); and holding numerous jobs, including numerous entrepreneurial pursuits (up through today in 2017).
I am struck by how much of it I remember. I am also struck by how frequently I changed my environment and engaged with numerous people of so many different stripes, on so many different levels.