Jason Lawrence Bell
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01-03-20 Two Books


‘Same approach, same get-away, wishing for positive outcome,’ read the last line of Stanley’s long-awaited novel. Stanley was satisfied and declared the book complete. For a novel that most felt would never be finished, Stanley used pure will power to push it over the line. Stanley had a dozen other books that were moderately successful. He hoped this work would take him to another level. However, during the writing the novel seemed to not want to cooperate. Stanley twice suffered extreme writers block and had to scrap large sections of writing. He seemed to lose direction and added seemingly unrelated diatribes. Stanley’s publisher was deeply concerned and was beginning to worry that the monetary advance they gave Stanley was wasted.

After all it was the publisher who demanded to Stanley that he create a best seller. They actually gave him the title and theme of the book. Stanley, desperately wanted a hit book, so he agreed to take their direction. The title they choose was The Proximity Of Love. They wanted a love story involving two town leaders. The towns were small coastal cities that were ten miles apart. Their location was the only characteristic they shared. Everything else was different. One town centered around its State University. Most businesses catered to the students, professors and intellectuals that surround the campus. The other town was blue collar. The main business was ocean loading docks for large ships bringing foreign goods to the United States. Most of the town people worked for either the docks or businesses supporting the docks.

Each town had a mayor. Harry Read was the blue-collar mayor and Margaret Mead the ex-professor who agreed to be mayor for a couple of terms. The desired romantic set-up required the two mayors to overcome their very different background and eventually would fall in love with one another. From there, the devoted couple could bring the towns happily together.

To Stanley it seemed a no-brainer. Until he started writing. As Stanley started creating scenes to introduce Harry Read’s personality to the readers, Stanley saw Harry’s character becoming more aggressive. He tried to make Harry folksy and rural in nature, but the dialogue came out more judgmental and angry. Harry acted more like a union boss harshly controlling his people. Harry could be funny and playful at times, especially with his friends. But with the business of the town, Harry kept close control. Plus, he hated the University town. He thought it was full of elites intellectualizing themselves into stupidity. Stanley struggled with Harry. He wanted to make Harry less edgy, and attractive enough to be enticing to Margaret. So, he let Harry rest for a while and worked on Margaret.

Stanley decided Margaret would be an ex-professor of Psychology. Then she would understand human personalities and could see the appeal of Harry. He hoped he could create a love potential thru Margaret. But Margaret also seemed to have her own ideas and firm opinions. When Stanley let her talk, she spoke of Harry as a narcissist and control freak, who couldn’t see past the city limits of his town. Stanley coached Margaret to say flattering things about Harry, but it came out like thinly-vailed insults.

Stanley regrouped. He decided to let them fight it out and during the heated arguments their eyes would meet, sparks would fly, and their love story would begin. Plus, he thought this way there would be more to keep the reader interested. But the city dramas were just as hard to control. Stanley wanted the cities different but friendly with the knowledge that they needed each other and may eventually merge. However, the towns would not cooperate. As Stanley defined the towns, his words came out divisive. He would write a paragraph and be shocked at how the words ignored his intent. Somewhere between his mind and his pen, the words and meaning changed. Stanley would write and rewrite, but another story was forming. The publisher was not amused when he read a few chapters. He wanted a love story, not a Hatfield’s and McCoy’s drama. Stanley was becoming exhausted from the constant struggle.

In desperation he tried to make an agreement with himself. He found it strange negotiating with himself, but this writing dilemma was already beyond strange. Eventually, he decided to write two books. One book would let the characters and towns speak as they wanted, the other book would be the love story. This agreement somehow relaxed Stanley’s writing drama. As long as the towns and characters had a book to vent in, Stanley’s love story would not have obstacles.

The book where the towns were allowed to vent, took about a month to complete with words flying onto the page in streams. The love story took about a year. The publisher gladly accepted the love story book, but was unaware the other book existed. While Stanley was promoting his love story book to the media, during an interview Stanley acknowledged the existence of the other book. The interviewer was a well-known book critic who became fascinated with Stanley’s experience of writing both books. He begged Stanley to let him read it. Stanley allowed it, but insisted that it remain their secret. That was the last time it was anyone’s secret.

The critic read the book three times in the next week. It was the first time he reviewed a book that was yet to be published, and he convinced the New Yorker to present it on the cover as the Book Of The Ages. The critic began his review, ‘only a few times in history do we have a book that so accurately reflects the social, economic and political dramas of a nation. This spells out in stark details the passionate beliefs, and condemning judgements that storm thru our communities daily. You will recognize yourself and your neighbors and relate to the harsh divides. Those with hearts will cry at the shame and rigidity and hopeless attempts at reconciliation. Those with minds will hopefully hear the thoughts of the other side and try to understand. I am struck by what is not in the book, which I am certain is deliberate. There were no signs of compassion, forgiveness or mercy. This is a book of stark truth. This book will change you. Hopefully it changes us all enough so we may sit at the table together again.’ Peace***