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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Surprise, Surprise: the Underside of the Story

I'm writing this on Inauguration Day, which is as surreal as anything gets in America, especially this year. If anyone had told me Donald J. Trump would be President at this time last year, I'd have said they were crazy. 

I didn't vote for Trump and would have preferred a different outcome, but what his election brings home in every possible way is how unpredictable human beings (and elections) are--for better or worse. 


When I was writing part one of the Beat Street Series, The Beat on Ruby's Street, I began the book with Ruby idolizing Jack Kerouac, who is known as the father of the Beat Generation--along with hipsters and other famous poets and writers.


In fact, Jack has been quoted as saying "I am not a beatnik. I'm a Catholic." Of attending a mass in his hometown of Lowell, Kerouac writes:

I had a vision of what I must have really meant with ‘beat’ anyhow when I heard the holy silence in the church (I was the only one in there, it was five P.M., dogs were barking outside, children yelling, the fall leaves, the candles were flickering alone just for me), the vision of the word Beat as being to mean beatific.
...as in  blissful... or saintly. Not "beat" as in hip or cool.

These days, I'm working on book two of the Beat Street Series about what happens to Ruby's best friend Sophie when her mother gets on the notorious Blacklist. The list put scores of people in entertainment out of work because they were accused of being Communists.


Digging into the research revealed that besides being a Catholic, extraordinary writer and poet, Jack Kerouac cheered while watching Senator Joe McCarthy, father of the Blacklist, on TV. He also scorned the hippie movement and approved of the Viet Nam war.


I also discovered though a friend (ironically named Carolyn Kennedy, no relation) that Bobby Kennedy, iconic senator, presidential candidate killed by an assassin and blazing liberal crusader, had been an aide to Senator McCarthy. Sources say he left this position after six months, but it shocked me to learn he had been on McCarthy's committee at all.


When I learned this, the first thing I thought was, what do I do with it? I'm writing about a young girl in a time and place that is focused on rebelling against the establishment. But the more I thought about it, the more interesting I thought it would be if my young heroine finds out the world is a bit more complex that she thought it was--politically as well as personally.


I'm thinking about all this on Inauguration Day because it's yet another example of life's endless capacity to ricochet off into something I never expected. I guess no matter how much we think we know someone, the only guarantee is that human beings are infinite in their ability to surprise us. 


Maybe that's why writers are here--and need to pay attention.







Black list graphic: La Notizia
Bearded Lady: York Berlin