Image: Cady Library, Nichols, N.Y.
When I was a growing up in Nichols, New York, one of my best friends was the village’s devoted librarian. Mrs. Kunte knew a budding bibliophile when she saw one and she fed me a steady diet of books. Science fiction, historical fiction, biographies, non-fiction, science and technology got me started and I widened my interests from there. I was 12 years old when she introduced me to the novels of Thomas Wolfe.
Wolfe is “known for mixing highly original, poetic, rhapsodic, and impressionistic prose with autobiographical writing. His books vividly reflect on American culture filtered through a sensitive, sophisticated and hyper-analytical perspective.”
I liked “Look Homeward Angel” best. Wolfe also gave me a glimpse of something that was entirely new to me— the idea that I could become an American writer. As a high school student I rarely did my homework but was always at work on a short story, play or essay. I was also well aware of Wolfe’s close but volatile relationship with his publisher (Scribner’s) and his editor, Maxwell Perkins.
From the wiki…
On his deathbed Wolfe wrote a deeply moving letter to Perkins, whom he considered to be his closest friend. He acknowledged that Perkins had helped to realize his work and had made his labors possible. In closing he wrote:
“I shall always think of you and feel about you the way it was that Fourth of July day three years ago when you met me at the boat, and we went out on the cafe on the river and had a drink and later went on top of the tall building, and all the strangeness and the glory and the power of life and of the city was below.”
I wanted to write like… that.
Even when I was still a very young man I dreamed of signing with a major New York publisher. I dreamed of working with an extra-ordinary editor, like Maxwell Perkins.
Today, I can say that I have done both of those things. “Second Wind” is being published by Simon and Schuster and I developed the manuscript with the help of an extraordinary editor named Trish Todd. I also know that the dream of becoming an “American writer,” in the manner of a Thomas Wolfe, will never come true for me.
It isn’t just that Thomas Wolfe was a vastly more talented and skillful writer than I am or will ever be. It’s also that, in the decades since I first read Wolfe’s novels, America’s relationship with books and writers has changed. We have industrialized the process of authorship, editing and publishing. Given this relentless commodification, it is doubtful a 21st century Thomas Wolfe would be given the chance to cultivate a devoted readership.
A great and mighty ambition has faded away but something new is emerging to take its place. I am possessed of a new dream that is better, richer, more exciting than a boy’s desire to emulate his literary heroes.
I now see myself as a writer AND a cultural critic AND an impresario of deeply authentic live experiences. This is a dream that belongs to me, one that Thomas Wolfe would likely have found very strange indeed.
I am a writer and I am proud of the Second Wind book and I do believe that it will help others reimagine their lives, their dreams.
I am a critic of the relentless “adultification” of American society and remain dedicated to illuminating the virtues of life beyond adulthood.
I am also the producer of a new kind of experience. I believe in the power of live “non-fiction” theater to share insights and, most importantly, help people understand why they so often feel that their lives are out of balance.
This is not my dream alone. You can share this journey with me. You are invited to read the book and dispute, embrace and improve its arguments. You are invited to join us in 25 cities across America as we present a theatrical experience that celebrates the joy that comes with catching hold of life’s Second Wind. You are invited into a new conversation about life, growth and reimagination.
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