Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Captive Audience

Did something kind of unusual on the plane ride back from Barcelona yesterday.

It was about a nine-hour flight, perhaps a little more, starting in the morning and ending around dinner time. Sleeping wasn’t an option, really, although I don’t ever do that well trying to sleep on planes. If it’s a redeye I’ll usually can at least rest my eyes for an hour or two, but in truth I never really zonk out, even if I happen to have a row on which to stretch.

I started out watching one movie -- David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence -- which I hadn’t seen before. I’m up on practically all early and mid-period Cronenberg, and also being a noir fan I ended up enjoying this one, even if it turned out to be a little awkward watching certain scenes there in an aisle seat where those behind me could watch as well, if they wished.

Against Cronenberg’s earlier stuff, of course, it played as a little more restrained. Meanwhile when compared to the noir tradition the story, situation, and characters followed, it read as a modern, more graphic update. Certain elements of the latter act (in particular William Hurt’s character) seemed over the top, but by then that fit well enough in the somewhat stylized world being presented.

Finishing that as well as the in-flight meal, I scrolled around and dialed up another movie to watch -- The French Connection (which I have seen, long ago) -- but within 10-15 minutes I couldn’t keep focused on it and switched it off, opting for some music instead. Then after sitting there a bit I pulled out my laptop.

During a conversation with Jack (my buddy and blogging partner) early in the two-week poker festival I’d brought up this draft of a novel I have. Same Difference had been essentially written well prior to my getting into poker (and starting this blog in 2006), and I only published it in 2009. Meanwhile this new novel was written subsequently, the first draft of which was completed around three years ago. I revised it a couple of times -- the file is marked “3rd draft” -- but hadn’t opened it back up since earlier this year.

I opened it there on the flight and began reading. Got through the first several chapters and kept going, then eventually was approaching the midpoint. Finally at some point I realized I was ready to read the whole sucker, and doing some math realized I’d be able to finish it before we landed which I did. Was perhaps seven hours of reading, I think -- the book’s novel-length but on the shorter side (around 70,000 words).

I don’t think I’d ever read it through in one sitting like that, and it was satisfying to do so. Like the first novel it’s essentially a murder mystery, although not a detective novel and draws much more on my own experiences than did Same Difference which is set in New York City in the mid-1970s. This one is also set in the past, with the story starting in 1979 and ending in 1980, but takes place in a setting essentially pattered after my hometown with a boy protagonist/narrator of my same age then.

I tinkered just a little as I went, but not much as the draft had been pored over many times already. I remembered certain sections I’d cut, glad they were gone in this version. A couple of plot points have been altered from the initial version, too, though a lot of it is still there.

The experience made me eager to begin the process of publishing it, something I’d like to before the year ends. In fact, I have another creative project of sorts I’m going to “publish” (so to speak) later this week, in fact, that falls under the same heading of me wanting to share something I’ve done rather than keep it to myself. For a couple of reasons, I’ve been feeling a lot of this “life-is-too-short-to-wait” pressure over the last few weeks, which is partly why I want to move ahead with these things.

Traveling will inspire that feeling sometimes. While in Barcelona I had a conversation with Brad (also my buddy and also my blogging partner) about watching movies on planes. On the surface, it seems less than ideal to watch these things on relatively small screes on the backs of passengers’ seats. But as Brad pointed out, the audience is uniquely captive, free from the endless distractions that mark our lives when we aren’t 30,000-plus feet in the air.

Coupled with being away from loved ones (if you’re traveling alone), that can make viewers especially receptive emotionally (we agreed), causing us to be more readily affected by certain films -- something both he and I have experienced before.

I can’t say A History of Violence moved me too deeply, although it had its moments. Meanwhile it might have been that being on the plane, all alone and in a relatively unique state of mind, affected me as I read through my novel again.

Doesn’t matter, I guess. Same difference, as they say.

Gonna get moving on this thing. More to come.

Image: “Plane” (adapted), Alper Çuğun. CC BY 2.0.

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