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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Thursday, May 12, 2005

the wind picks up

Jeepers, another day already. I'm just back from a visit to my chiropractor, Terry Dickson. Shaven-headed, athletic, talkative, strong. Knowing I'm a writer, he likes to talk about intellectual subjects while manipulating and stretching me, interrupting himself briefly to direct me to move this way or that. Today it was about movies and public debate. Evidently there's a new release about the Crusades, and both Christians and Muslims lobbied the filmmakers to make sure they were portrayed flatteringly. According to Terry's friends (neither he nor I has seen the movie), the result is muddled.

"That's no good," I said, voice muffled by having my face pressed into the leather crevice of the treatment table. "A decent story has to have a strong point of view."

"Exactly," said Terry. "Exactly."

Then, as he provided resistance to my efforts to press my leg toward the door, he said, "I like debate. I like hearing both sides of an issue. I like hearing from people who know more about something than I do, and what they've got to say. I like having my mind expanded that way."

Good for you, I thought. You're one in a million.

It was a good writing day. I made my last few notes, and felt myself too charged up and ready to wait any longer. I jumped into my chapter in progress and started typing. I made 5 pages--an ideal day. It feels much like sailing a boat with a fresh wind after luffing in still air. Having outlined my dialogue, I flipped between my Notes document and my chapter. I felt good.

The morning notes session was also good. I keyed from The True Believer, A History of the Jewish People, and also from another book that I brought down from the coffeetable, not having looked at it in 3 months or so: Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian: 323 BCE to 135 CE by Sean Freyne.

The more I read (and key) of The True Believer, the more disturbing it becomes. Consider this from page 51:

There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society's ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers and support among the bored than among the exploited and oppressed.

If that's true, then our own Western society is ripe for a mass movement. As Hoffer himself says another paragraph on: "Pleasure-chasing and dissipation are ineffective palliatives." Our society is devoted to pleasure-chasing and dissipation. Our jaded, blasé children are dry tinder waiting for the spark of a mass movement.


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