My earliest recollections of becoming interested in writing and literature in general began while I was living in Monticello, Utah. There are several memories that rival each other for the first actual instance I put pencil to paper with the intention of creating a story. One such recollection has me coming home from school with an assignment from the teacher to write a Halloween story that could not be longer than a page and a half in length. I remember being very excited about it, and composed a mystery concerning an adolescent prank. Due to the limitation on word length, I seem to recall the story ending rather abruptly, leaving a question mark for the reader to decide the solution on his/her own.
Another fond memory is exploring the attic of our rental home and coming across a collection of books. One such volume was an anthology containing Washington Irving, O. Henry, Robert Nathan, and a short story called “The Birds” which no doubt was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie. I read them all, particularly moved by Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie and “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. Portrait of Jennie had a profound influence on me, considering it was a love story with a dash of the supernatural, and the fact that I was entering puberty. The novel’s fantasy allusions and surreal plot made it difficult for me at that age to understand if this was an all out ghost story, or something else. In retrospect, and after rereading the novel while an adult, I have drawn conclusions that Nathan had written a fantasy in the vein of Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Both deal with haunted paintings and a touch of the supernatural, but their allusions and styles afford something in the undercurrents that don’t rightly classify them as merely speculative fiction, but rather a commentary, perhaps, on the times and observations of the authors. Nevertheless, Portrait of Jennie stayed with me long after I lost that particular volume to time. It would come back in a different venue a couple of years later, however, and inspire me even more greatly.
The third deep recollection I have is akin to the moment in Kinsella’s novel, Shoeless Joe; I was playing with my plastic dinosaurs and Hot Wheels cars in the yard, and having a glorious time with them. Being a school night, my mother called me in to eat supper and take a bath and do homework. I remember being crestfallen and having the profound sadness that my world of the plastic dinosaurs and cars would end, and for some reason, I would never have the experience again – certainly not like it was. I heard a notion in my head that told me emphatically to write a story about it, and it will remain forever.
(to be continued)