Happy Father’s Day! A Glimpse of What Dad Is Thinking…

As a tribute to fathers everywhere, we’re re-running one of our more popular posts from the History of Jacke in 100 Objects series. Yes, yes: it’s the “Dad orders burgers with a slice of Proust” one. Enjoy, fathers (and all who love them)!

Home from traveling, I jump into the gray Corolla. I’ve been a Five Guys Dad lately, flying to Los Angeles for work and back home on weekends to take the boys to soccer and movies and the library and their favorite restaurant. It’s not an ideal way to parent, but what can you do? My job requires it, and my life requires my job.

As usual, I’m first. As I wait, the smell inside the car rises up and makes me shudder. Old burgers and fries. The smell of a grill, the smell of grease. I do not feel like I do when I’m on a sidewalk and the hot fumes coming out of a bar make me hungry and eager to go inside. This smell is stale and disgusting and I hate it.

I’ve never liked this car. I was forced to buy it in a hurry (two cars in two days) when moving here from New York and starting a new life. Everything was rushed then, everything was secondary to trying to keep a toddler and an infant fed and clothed and safe. I overpaid for the car; my half of the negotiations still stands as a particularly disgraceful display of weakness on my part.

Hate the car. And now I can’t even muster up the energy to replace it. My wife never drives it. It sits here all week, its slaughterhouse smell trapped inside like The Ghost of Weekends Past. The good times have faded, left behind like grease-splattered paper bags.

With one exception (when a rat chewed through some hoses), the car has been dependable. I hate it anyway. I hate the color, it’s too small, it’s boring, the carpet is already practically destroyed. We’ve abused it with spills and mud and orange peels and juice boxes and crumbs. The car is filthy, inside and out; the windows are crusted with bird droppings; crumbs and bits of leaves line every possible groove. Being in here makes me feel weak and unhealthy and ashamed.

And now there’s the smell. The smell that conjures up all my frustrations.

Here’s Proust on his famous madeleine:

And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.

Extraordinary changes? Perhaps—but in my case, they were all going in the wrong direction.

Continue reading

Advertisements

“Humor, Depression, and Hope All Together in One Short Book”: A Review of The Promotion by My Author Within

The Promotion was my first book by Jacke Wilson, and now I am wondering if I have been sleeping under a rock not to notice this amazing author…” – My Author Within

 #

Wow! Another great day here on the Jacke blog. The first review of The Promotion has come in, and it’s excellent. My thanks to Mariam at My Author Within for giving the book such an intelligent read and such an enthusiastic thumbs up.

I’m tempted to just cut and paste the entire review, but I’ll limit myself to a few selections. Here we go!

It was an exceptionally fast read.

Wonderful! Not only is this the goal for just about any author, in this case I tried to push the accelerator pedal a little harder to reflect the narrator’s obsession and his spiraling out of control. Glad to hear it worked!

Since the book’s main setting was in a law firm, it was important for me to see that the author did research and included believable material. Jacke Wilson’s knowledge of legal world makes me think that he has some legal education at least.

Good guess! And in particular the book takes a look at the craziness of recruiting season, when aspiring young attorneys parade through, encountering a lot of grizzled old veterans. It’s an unusual dynamic to say the least. A great setting for an Edgar Allan Poe style descent into madness.

The author managed to include humor, depression, and hope all together in one short book.

Thank you!

This is the type of book that makes you think and evaluate your own life. As I was reading it, I kept thinking if my life is any better than the main character’s?

I hope it is!

The character development was done amazingly well. The story introduced us to many characters, and the reader can fairly accurately describe each one. The protagonist’s character is very well developed. As I was reading the book, I felt his pain, his loneliness, and depression. He is a person who wants his job to matter. He wants to leave a legacy behind. He is a person who is obsessed with passion and passionate people, which sometimes leads to his downfall and reason for being lonely in the first place. If I were to describe him with a short sentence, I’ll say that he is someone who is going through a mid-life crisis, and realizes that he has nothing to show for the years he lived.

What an excellent encapsulation of the main character. I’m so glad it came through! Even though he runs off the rails, I have a soft spot for him too.

Jacke Wilson wrote the book in such a manner that every reader will have a different interpretation and understanding of the story. At the end of the book I felt just like I felt during the finale of “Lost” TV show. I kept questioning myself, and trying to understand what really happened. It takes a certain skill to be able to write in such a manner.

Yes! I’m so pleased to hear that this is coming through. One set of readers disagreed—each of the three had a different interpretation of what happened, and none could persuade the other. And another reader told me she read the book and immediately started over. I’m flattered and honored.

And my thanks to Mariam of My Author Within, whose thoughtful and salient review of my odd little book has truly made my day. I noticed that her blog is currently on hiatus as she studies for the bar. Let’s hope her legal career goes better than the narrator’s—as I’m sure it will! (It could hardly go worse…)

#

You can check out my response to reviews of The Race by My Little Book Blog (“warm and full of life”),  Small Press Reviews (“an incredibly astute novella about ego and politics”), and Radical Science Fiction (“Self-Deception Is Human”). I’m terribly grateful for all of the fine reviewing I’ve received by these indie reviewers.

And of course, you can find The Promotion and The Race at Amazon.com (in Kindle and paperback versions). The Race is also available in other formats and locations.

Are you a reviewer? Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll ship you a free review copy of either The Race (ex-governor of Wisconsin recovering from a scandal) or The Promotion (D.C. lawyer becomes obsessed with a woman he’s never met). Or you can enjoy the 100 Objects series, which is still going strong, which are all available for free here on the website.

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #13 – The Monster

I was traveling through Scotland in the dead of winter. Most of my life was spent holed up in a guest house in Inverness, sitting by the fireplace and reading Ulysses. I was content, mostly, but every day I forced myself to get out and do at least one thing.

Typically this meant I made it all the way to the pub down the street, where I drank a pint of heavy and sat by the fireplace and read Ulysses.

After about a week of this, the owner of the guest house gave me a coupon for a bus tour around Loch Ness. The Monster Tour. A stop at the Monster Museum. Kitschy, of course, but free, thanks to the coupon. And scenic. And sort of interesting, maybe.

I knew I didn’t like monsters. But I liked deception, especially self-deception, and I loved a good myth in an anthropological sort of way. There was something childlike about belief in the Loch Ness Monster that appealed to me. Something historic. Something connected to the land.

I walked down the hill to the bus depot under a cloudy sky and presented my ticket. The tour was as bad as all guided tours everywhere: bad jokes told by a guide who mixed information with spooky sound effects that even he had a hard time putting any gusto behind. As usual I sat there thinking, He says this ten times a day, every single day. Is he insane? Will he be soon?

Naturally I was the only one under the age of sixty. Most of my fellow passengers were enjoying the tour, groaning at the puns and snapping pictures for their grandchildren.

I was sitting up front, by myself. The guide seemed to recognize my likely cynicism. “Don’t worry,” he said to me, off-mike, as the wheels started turning. “We get some really good views. And I’ll point out the Led Zeppelin house. They were into the occult.”

I nodded. Two hours. Two hours to burn. Then the pub, and the pint of heavy, and back into Ulysses. It was good to be out; I liked looking at the fog and rain and green. Someone said we’ll be going high enough to feel the cold. Not a problem: I was wearing the coat I had worn in Tibet. I would survive.

And then, as we’re pulling out of the lot onto the highway that circumnavigates the Loch, the bus suddenly jerks to a halt. The guide stops his patter in mid-sentence and whirls around. Grumbling, the driver points out his windshield.

On the road, a man stands in front of the bus, holding up both arms to force the bus to stop. The man wants to join the tour.

“What does he think this is?” the driver mutters as the guide opens the door. “Tiananmen Square?”  Continue reading

100 Objects Special Interlude: The Music Teacher and the Artist

music-teacher
Gui Lessin, circa 1981.

Okay, this is simply awesome.

As regular readers know, I’ve been posting a series called A History of Jacke in 100 Objects. These short stories are fictional versions of things that have happened to me. Like most fiction, they’re based on real-life experiences and drawn from people I’ve known, though the characters are typically exaggerations, or composites, or both.

The stories have been popular, and I’ve been pleased by how wide their appeal has been. That was my intention, of course – not just to share with those who were there, but to express something recognizable to those who were not. So I’m grateful when people I’ve never met tell me they knew coaches like the ones in #1 – The Padlock. Or that they’ve felt the same way as the father in #8 – The Burger Car. Or that they were inspired by the teacher’s triumph in #10 – The Spitwad. Even the ones who say they smiled at my battle with Jerry Seinfeld in #3 – The Blood Cake.

One post in particular, #7 – The Keyboard, about a young boy and his burnt-out music teacher, seems to have touched a nerve. And it has led to a couple of follow-up moments that left me shaking my head with wonder.

The first was from a music teacher who, like the narrator, was given a paper keyboard on which to practice as a young child:

Very, very moving, Jacke, and indirectly very nostalgic for me too. When we lived in Hong Kong in the 50s my parents tried to persuade a Russian piano teacher to take me on when I was four, again even though we didn’t have a piano. Too young, she assured my parents; instead, a dummy keyboard made from black and white paper strips glued to a cheap table was advised, on which I practised for a few months. Then we went abroad.

Fifteen months or so later we returned from the UK, and I was interviewed again and allowed to actually play on a real piano. Said teacher was amazed. “Why didn’t you bring him to me a year ago?” Clearly a few thousand miles was no bar to starting lessons properly. I haven’t looked back, and still teach and accompany now six decades on. Luckily for my students, I’m no Miss Steiner in my approach to pedagogy.

What a wonderful story, with such a lovely ending. So much better than the place I left the narrator in number 7.

An even bigger surprise came from a former schoolmate of mine:

Continue reading

Blog Tour – From the Starving Artist to Jacke Wilson

I’ve been asked to participate in a tour of the blogosphere focused on writing process. I love traveling! And I love writing! So here we go!

First, you can check out the gracious portrait of me over at The Starving Artist.
Continue reading

“Self-Deception Is Human”: Book Review of The Race (at Radical Science Fiction)

“This was a great little piece of political fiction…Wilson shows his writing chops – immersing us in a political world that doesn’t feel jargony, over-the-top, or formulaic.” – Nic Eaton, Radical Science Fiction

I was both pleased and intrigued when Nic over at Radical Science Fiction graciously offered to review my book The Race. Because although The Race is not science fiction, I’d like to think it shares a common set of themes with works in that genre.

Setting aside the horse race of an election, or the debates about this or that issue, what happens to the people involved? What’s universal about politics and politicians? What does a political campaign do to the people around it? What do a campaign and the politicians we elect (or not) say about our society? Or democracy? Or us?

Questions like these are why shows like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica are so compelling. It’s not the space aliens or special effects (cool as they may be). It’s the investigation into the human condition.

This isn’t a new idea of course. I only point it out to show why it was unsurprising that Nic, a fan of that genre, zoomed straight to the heart of what I was trying to get at.

Here’s the title of the review: Continue reading

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #12 – The Tickets to the Premiere


It was during my study-abroad year in Bologna that my friend Roberto and I decided to write a musical. Not just for fun, not just for some school play or party or anything immature like that—no, we were going to be great and famous writers of musicals. Wilson & Benedetti!

And why not us? Roberto had been playing piano for a million years and had perfect pitch. I had just written a poem. We had both been IN musicals. We liked WATCHING them.

This is all it takes, people. Twenty-year-olds studying abroad have boundless optimism. None of it’s earned, of course, but that’s okay. It’s just there.

One problem: all the good subjects had already been taken. Our predecessors had covered everything we could think of. We needed a theme. Needed a setting. Some kind of story. Luckily, as the word guy, I had a brilliant idea:

ME: I’ve come up with an idea for our musical. No one’s ever done it. Brand new!
ROBERTO: Excellent! What is it?
ME: Okay, so I’ve been reading a lot of Simone de Beauvoir. Just finished The Second Sex.
ROBERTO: Um, okay…
ME: And I’ve been reading a lot of Nietzsche. Some interesting combinations there.
ROBERTO: You want to write a…Nietzschean feminist musical?
ME: With bouncy tunes!

It’s embarrassing now to think how excited we were. Embarrassing to think we even tried. But can you blame us? We were twenty years old. TWENTY.

Think of life as a world of doors. When you’re young, you’re told you can open any door. Right? Just find the one you want…and walk right through! They’re all open to you! We tell college graduates that, even though it’s really not true at all. And five-year-olds? Forget it. With five-year-olds we lie and lie and lie. You want to be a movie star? See you on the big screen! An astronaut slash professional baseball player? Godspeed, little one.

For two twenty-year-olds, roaming through Europe, living like carefree kings on Eurorail passes and a stipend, fueled by red wine (legal here! a whole year early!), well, what were going to dream of being? Accountants? Dental hygienists? Of course not! We would be writers of a musical. Naturally. Of course.

We took a picture to commemorate the day we began:

Continue reading