“He was always chasing the next draft of himself.”
American critic Dwight Garner, in the New York Times Book Review on February 16 of this year, was describing the childhood of Henry James.
An expandable list comes to mind, some of our memorable figures moving toward the next draft of themselves: Anne Shirley, Holden Caulfield, Jo March, Jody Baxter, Arnold Spirit, Jr., Gilly Hopkins, M.C. Higgins, Jane Yolen’s Hannah/Chaya, Will Grayson and Will Grayson, Billie Jo Kelby, Ramona Quimby, the Gaither sisters, Hugo Cabret, Stanley Yelnats, the Logan family of Mississippi, Winnie Foster, Walter Dean Myers’ Steve Harmon, Terry Pratchett’s Mau and Daphne and their Nation. Harry, Hermione, Ron.
One of our truisms is that the characters who transport us in their stories are actually showing us — seldom without pain — about revising and becoming. We’ve all felt it happen.
After the last page, our selves have enlarged, leading us often subtly, silently, into our own next draft.
Generation after generation, many of our young, in fiction and in the house just down the road, must revise themselves by fleeing chaos, violence, or neglect wrought by callous or confused adults. Others seek change and release from what seems an abyss of boredom. And some of us lucky ones try on differences just because we can.
Right now, December 2016, in our own USA, many of our neighbors and students fear deportation, a cruel next draft in a world they never made. As the new administration struts toward Washington, we’re wary of the convulsive upending, we’re apprehensive about the precipitous swerves and the jaw-dropping, impetuous tweets, and some of us place bets. Here is Henry James’ declaration from about a hundred years ago: “I hate American simplicity. I glory in the piling up of complications of every sort.” Come on back, Henry. We have drafts galore for you, we’ll help you catch up on your reading, and we’ve got real life complications that will blow your spats off.
Well said, Virginia, as usual.
LaVaughn in “True Believer” should be first on your list of heroes-in-revision! Thanks for this, Jinny.
Thank you, Suzanne: You, who teach us so much about the grit of making ourselves and our lives.
Gosh, Amy. Thank you. These are troubled times indeed. But we’re in them together.
Spot on, Virginia. I fear for our young people faced with a post-truth society. It is up to us all to keep showing them that truth matters.
Thank you, Elaine. We always tend to say, “Trust the kids,” don’t we? We depend on their fresh thinking to shine the necessary light. But what a burden to place on them. Lucky us, to have you and other dedicated librarians who keep nourishing them.
Thank you for this great pep talk! Yes, let’s resist the temptation to hide for 4 years … and get out there to make ourselves heard and “glory in the piling up of complications”!
And you, Janet, are one of our champion pilers-on of thoughtful complications. May we all keep on.
I got chills reading these words. Thank you, Jinny!
Thank you, KT. These are chilling times, for sure. I think we all need to stay tuned.
Aw, Jinny, you were MUCH nicer and politic than I could ever be. Well said, dear old friend. – Jane
Well, Jane, if I know anything, any little bit at all, I can attribute it to having listened to my betters, who have so much to teach. You and KT (just above), for instance.
So powerful and true! I wish I could “revise” November, but I so appreciate your rallying cry against the “precipitous swerves” and “impetuous tweets” we’re facing now. Here’s to complications!
Ah, Sylvia, thank you. And may we be ever alert to the complications that most affect the youngest, most vulnerable among us.
Jinny, thanks for sharing your good-hearted wisdom. We all benefit from regular doses of such stuff.
And thank you, Chris, for being a generous source of good-hearted wisdom yourself.
Well said, dear Jinny. Now if we could only find a way for you to whisper them into some ears, some huge, huge ears (and i’m not referring to our sitting president). But I fear that particular Hugeness never backs up nor saves his revisions.
Thank you, Karen. At the very least, the view from my desk tells me that this seems to be a time when we need to examine our own integrity ever more carefully. And to stay tuned, knowing we’re in this together.
Jinny, thank you for this YA perspective. I was just beginning some writing of a dialogue between More and Savonarola, so I appreciate the hope of revision! It’s been snowing here in the Gorge and I am happy to report my very first use of the roof rake was a smooth sailing success!
Thanks, Jim. Between being beheaded and being burned at the stake, More and Savonarola have given you a lot to ponder while you rake the snow off your roof. I think we’ve revised our priorities since then, but we need to be ever vigilant, in case someone importunes us to Make the 16th Century Great Again.