Haven’t written in a while, but I thought about you today.
I’m reading again that novel we both read in high school, though I can’t remember whether I bought it first and you wanted it because I had it… or whether I saw you reading it and went out that weekend and bought it myself, so I could flash it at study hall and you’d notice… and we could talk about it together in a corner because… I looked for excuses back then, reasons for us to talk about things for which you had such a passionate interest… just for the pleasure of hearing the fire in your voice.
It was an old book then, old and somewhat obscure. I remember the jacket said it was a very big deal in Russia, in Europe… everywhere. Millions and millions and millions of copies sold.
The Gadfly… remember? A novel first published in the late 1890s by Ethel Voynich, not well known any more, but for some reason it experienced a brief resurgence in the early 1960s, so that anyone with half a brain for books… anyone with a capacity for intense intellectual notions had to read it… tried to read it, tried to understand why people said it was important, meaningful, even timely, though it wasn’t really timely… not yet, though it would be soon enough… in the latter years of that decade, in fact.
It was about revolution, a thing we did not yet ever think about, except for the thrill of the concepts surrounding rebellion… like the Victor Hugo book… the Paris Commune, the barricades, the red flags, the romance and the fire of a time we could only imagine… as it was historic, a prop, alien then, at least to us.
Eight years later, you must have felt it as I did, the possibility, the passion in the air, the word itself tossed around like so much excess… excess of guile… an excess of promise unfulfilled… revolution this and revolution that, until the word itself lost all meaning, ended up cynical and droll.
The revolution that was televised, commercialized, marketized, costumed and produced, packaged and seduced, but… before we knew it? They won. The revolution? Our revolution? It went right into reruns.
So… The Gadfly… I’m reading it now… again… because I need to remember what it was like to be hopeful and passionate… and I’ll admit it… I remember so little about it now, and I wonder if I ever really finished reading it. My head was already full of notions then. I’d read so much… more than I had the capacity to grasp, but tried anyway… Dostoevski, Tolstoi, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Voltaire, and I’d just started Don Quixote when I saw you carrying The Gadfly and knew I had to be reading it as well.
So there… I remember now… you had it first, didn’t you?
You had it, so I had to have it as well
God, but we were young.
We went off in totally different directions, didn’t we?
Really lost track.
I hope you’re well.
So damn many times over the past decades… years in which I’ve not seen or heard from you… or even known where you’ve gone, I think about you often, unable to imagine how life might have received you… rewarded you for the visions you had so long ago. I’ve wondered how you fared, if you were happy, if you found the things you wanted, the things you wished for…
Most of all, I miss the things we shared.
So maybe that’s why I’m reading that book again
And thinking about you.
Your old friend,
James the Least
Letters to Virginia by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Every writer knows the truth about words… that of themselves and in their studied form… they are limiting, vague… that they can be chains that hold you back. A writer like Toni Morrison is able break the binds and strictures of language in such a way that the words become a liberating force within the reader… permitting a depth in simplicity that could never be otherwise achieved except within her flawless style. Such a writer is rendered thus immortal.
“No one ever talks about the moment you found that you were white. Or the moment you found out you were black. That’s a profound revelation. The minute you find that out, something happens. You have to renegotiate everything.”
Short answer? Absolutely.
Although it’s just an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while and never really considered it a personal priority, I’m actually getting serious and presently researching the possibilities… even looking into the actual costs involved in establishing a writers collective that would be centered around the production and publishing of a regional quarterly literary review and… possibly… an annual foray into book publishing… anthologies, perhaps, or even novels.
Logistical support for this venture would be limited, physically, to Northeast Ohio, specifically to the area in and around Cleveland and Akron, however, technology enables participation from virtually any location these days. Accordingly, if those who wish to be involved in the collective possess the necessary skill set and the equipment required, their location doesn’t really matter.
In a month or so, I will have the draft of a business plan that would summarize the scope of the project and provide an outline of the specific literary perspective for the quarterly journal.
If anyone is interested in getting involved, send me an email and I will put your name on a list to receive the prospectus when it’s ready. You need only give me your name and what manner and level of involvement you would consider (i.e. editor, columnist, essayist, writer, fiction or non-fiction, graphic arts, etc.)
I’m not looking for investors, but if you have a few million laying around and you don’t know what to do with it, you could consider underwriting the project and earn yourself the gratitude of the writers and artists who may decide to get involved and maybe even a full page dedication in the first issue, but hey… your name on page one and artistic gratitude, along with $5 might get you a fair cup of coffee and a donut… or maybe even an eclair, but not much more than that.
Anyway if you think you might be interested in getting involved with this project in any way at all… send your email to me at:
There’s no guarantee this thing will ever get off the ground, but if there is enough interest, it might be worth the effort. Of course, even if it did get underway, projects like this are a dime a dozen and they tend to fall flat more often than not, so there is that. But hey… if you believe in writing and the arts, what’s to lose?
I have always admired the character of Don Quixote. Why? Because of his marvelous blindness. He could see, yes, but only vague shapes he was forced to interpret with his fine imagination… a wonderful and singular imagination that was formed in the novels of old, novels with heroes and villains, novels from the perspective of romance, novels rife with idyllic ideals that were conceived by the minds of men like himself, men who longed for some sense of nobility in mankind, a mystical concept that was expressed in the code of the chevalier, a notion of heroics and the grandeur of chivalric valor, unwritten codes that prevailed in the novels written in the time of the Don’s creator… though not on the muddy highways, nor in the poor villages of Spain, nor in its people… nor in any other nation then or now… which notion likely never really existed at all in fact, beyond the hopeful fictions, the beautiful words that molded their illusory landscape.
Of course, neither did Don Quixote exist. The old man was a character in a book, a novel at that, an intellectual vehicle, a literary trope, the projection of someone like myself, a writer, a man or woman… in this case a man, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.
A writer tries to rebuild the world with a framework of words and the substance of figuration. So, by that token, in such a world, I can have dinner with Don Quixote. Perhaps a meal in my kitchen, simple fare consisting of tuna fish sandwiches on soft rye bread. Cold iced tea or maybe beer… in big chilled mugs. For dessert, maybe fresh cinnamon and raisin spice cake with sweet, thick, rich, rich, rich butter icing and coffee. Of course, the food would not really matter. It could be anything really … roast beef, chicken, lamb, pulled pork. Food is only food. The dinner is only a platform on which to build a conversation. In that conversation, perhaps I could tell a story, inject an opinion, betray confidences. Because I so love the heart of Don Quixote, perhaps I would only listen.
Cervantes is dead … though his words, his mind, and the Don live on.
I suppose that I was saddened by the fact that Cervantes wrote the books in such a way that the Don eventually died of a broken heart… but isn’t that the fate of any man or woman who aspires to an ideal and does not settle for the way things are? It’s no coincidence that the brain is the organ within us that is closest to the heavens, or that the bowels are closest to the earth. Our heart, however, lies somewhere between the two. In a way, the concept is comedic and so it is, or was, that in the cynical mind of Cervantes, Don Quixote must surely die aggrieved for his lofty and insensible perceptions.
It’s the natural consequence of truth.
The world could care less about any individual soul, man or woman, when there are so many… more than seven and a half billion last time I checked.
“Hah…” they seem to say, if not aloud… surely they’d never say it aloud, but you read the words in their tones and their eyes, “…foolish old man. Where do you get such impertinent notions? Just die, fool. We need the bed. We need the space you’re taking up, the air you’re sucking in, the food you turn to waste. Die already!”
So it is… and to say to hell with the world, I have dinner with Don Quixote. This meal we share is not unusual, I think. Maybe an early supper in a clean, noisy diner in a truck stop on the Interstate. Perhaps in Missouri or Oklahoma where the food is seasoned with pity and priceless understanding by immigrant cooks with fresh spices and hope… food meant to caress the troubled soul, quiet the restless mind, and leave the appetite sated. Meatloaf, perhaps, with mashed potatoes, peas and corn… or maybe with gravy and rich mac and cheese, a bowl on the side with sweet black-eyed peas. The meatloaf has this crispy, dark brown edge and on the top of every slice, a thin red tasty glaze of baked sweet ketchup. Lots of coffee. Pretty waitress.
The conversation? Dreams. Beautiful dreams… and maybe dark dreams as well, but dark with a twist of charity. Laughter, tears, emotions swell. I am a writer. This is what I do. This is who I am.