Albany Journal – 8/13/12

I’ve had enough of drinking in Albany, and just today I got back to work on revising my next novel, The Orphan of Mecca.  The revision process is really quite difficult for me, because I tire of it very easily, even when I’m only working on it for an hour a day.  My good friend, Hans Laverge, line edited the manuscript, and now I can sense that the novel is more efficiently written without a lot of the verbage that I used to put in my other novels.  Right now the manuscript looks lean and mean, as Hans really did a fantastic job with it.  I couldn’t be happier, because he also didn’t accept any payment for his services.  He really did it out of the goodness of his own heart, and never again will I say that I haven’t been given anything, nor will I ever complain that my old friends have somehow abandoned me.  Hans is a dear friend, and his editing job on the book speaks to his expertise and precision with the written word.  He also offered more general criticism of the work, and I can safely say that he is right on target when he discusses the big revisions that need to be made for the book.  Sure, there is a lot more work to do, but I am happy to do it, because he really lays out a set of suggestions for the book that many talented writing instructors would point out as well.  I am amazed by his talent.

But now the ball is in my court, so to speak.  Lately, I haven’t been too excited about returning to writing.  I haven’t lost interest in it, but I think I’ve been somewhat brainwashed into steering away from writing as a career.  This is an interesting idea, because for some reason my memory has gotten really bad, and of course, as I wrote in an earlier entry, the passion for writing these days is very hard to find, considering what I’ve been through because of writing.  I have the feeling that many people are writing these days, but no one ever knows what will be published and when, considering that the vampire novels and all of the teenage erotic novels have already hit their peak and are now in decline as new trends attempt to emerge in the literary marketplace.  While it is true that a lot of these novels that come out today try to appeal to younger audiences to ensnare a whole new generation of readers, I still think that the moving image and broadcast television have easily gained ground over the past thirty years or so and have now captured those audiences that would rather watch things happen on a screen rather than experiencing them happen more intimately within the pages of a book. 

It’s all turning to screens anyway – The Kindle, The Nook, The Sony Reader – all of these screens that entice book readers to watch them.  It’s a strange trend, but I’m sincerely hoping that we don’t ever lose that need to read.  I figure that it will take a lot of effort for anyone to revert back to the printed book.  The screens with their clever flashing lights and colors, some concoction made by a bunch of corporate neuroscientists, will all be a part of us soon – these machines that rule the day.  They either don’t work at all, or they work really a bit too well for us to ignore them.  And then there’s the idea that maybe I am the one turning into a dinosaur here and not anyone else. 

While teaching at SUNY, I was amazed to find so many people using text messages and cell phones to communicate.  I’m a bit wary of these changes to our culture, because now, no one can really talk to each other or sit and listen to a lecture or a recital or a theatrical piece without those dreaded machines sounding off – and there’s always just one cell phone that rings that ruins it all, because not only does the sound of a loud cell phone destroy the moment, but there is always this afterthought – this decision we end up making whether or not we should pardon the user for bringing the cell phone to the quiet concert or tennis match.  After all, wouldn’t we bring our cell phones just in case of emergency?  What if it was our kids on the other line needing to escape a house fire?  Don’t get me wrong, because cell phones do help us out quite a bit.  I guess I long for the days without cell phones and without twenty-four hour news channels and the general preponderance of new nano-media.  This doesn’t make me seem too old, does it?

I remember when I had once exchanged email addresses with a woman I knew, and she immediately said that I was “ancient,” because I still use Hotmail as my email provider.  The computer I have now is very large and old and clunky, but it still works quite well.  Sure there are bugs in everything it does, but overtime I have become used to having this same old clunky computer, and I certainly won’t replace it just yet.  Everyone I know, actually, are buying these tablet computers, and many of them do tell me that I am missing the boat.  But if my old computer still works fairly well, there is no need to replace it.  And my printer is old too and is always malfunctioning when I need to print something out.  The printer I wouldn’t mind getting rid of, but my computer stays.  I have been happy with it all these years – and I think I’ve had my computer for at least ten years so far – but sometimes, when it presents me with errors, I really do want to smash it to the ground and just kick it over and over until it does what I’ve asked it to do.  I have gotten so close to my computer as of late that I rely on it for almost everything.  I know how it breathes, how it thinks, and when the thing just won’t shut down or reboot within an appropriate amount of time.  A dinosaur, I am, indeed, but I’m squeezing this computer until the day it just doesn’t turn on anymore.  I think I’ll bury it in the sand one day and offer its body as a sacrifice to God.

Harvey Havel is the author of five novels. This past spring, Stories from the Fall of the Empire, his sixth book and his first collection of short stories, was recently released by Publish America. Later this summer, Two Tickets to Memphis, his sixth novel, is forthcoming from Publish America as well. Havel has previously taught Writing at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and also at SUNY Albany and the College of St. Rose, both in Albany, New York. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971, Havel now resides full time in Albany, New York.