alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,

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Huzzah! My Book is Here!

Production of my collection of essays and columns, The Art of Life, was delayed by the happy arrival of my healthy baby boy back in June. But finally, I managed to complete the editing and design process, and now the book is available, just in time for Christmas shoppers!

Check it out at my online store. I'm proud of this collection and believe that it's a good sampler of my work over the past 13 years.

Here's an excerpt:

Traveling Music, October 2000

Never let “Tangled Up In Blue” catch you unaware.

Say you’re driving down the road on a reasonably sunny day, feeling passably cheerful as the sun burns through a bank of clouds — and then out of nowhere you hear those mournful chords.

The smart thing to do is to change the station right then, find something cheerful and bouncy. But if you’re like me, you’re a fool and keep listening. You get drawn in, and before you know it, as Dylan sings that line about how the only thing he can do “is keep on keepin’ on”— by then you’re a wreck, thinking of all the missed opportunities, all the lovers come and gone, all the people you’ve known who have careened like mad comets across your sky.

And then the sky seems suddenly bleak, and the sun is a cold beam of truth. And there are no shadows anywhere, as you relive your own personal traumas.

Don’t do it. Turn the dial. Listen to G. Love or Beck. Even The Cure can’t sock you like Bob Dylan on a lonely road in the middle of bright afternoon.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you haven’t known people who flashed through your life, searing savage beauty whose aftermath is the after image of a super nova. Maybe you’ve never caught yourself wondering where they went and why — why, after all the bills you footed for them, after all the times they showed up late with no better explanation than the night was long and they took a walk before dawn — why you still miss them.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced there were two Neal Cassadys. There was the Holy Goof, who inspired Jack Kerouac (On the Road), Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and Tom Wolfe (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). That Neal Cassady was a manic sage and out-there poet of life, who seized the moment, who thrilled and challenged all he met.

Then there was the Neal Cassady who drifted through life like a leaf in a tempest. He couldn’t — or wouldn’t — attach to anyone, at least not for years and years. Behind him stretched a trail of tears, lovers he had left when things started to seem too good.

That Neal fractured into a million pieces. I should know, I’ve met him more than once. And every time he comes around again — tangled up in blue — I let him drift awhile with me.

In some circles, there are other names for him: nomad, drifter, liar, fool. In some worlds he is kind and blissed out, but directionless. In others he is angry, formless and righteous. He is the friend you had in high school who wrote spirals of music, then disappeared to a hut in Nebraska and later, you heard, died in a motorcycle accident, helmetless.

He is the lover who wooed you with long conversations about religion and politics and art — moved in, ran up your phone bill and left in a flurry of forgetting.

He is the nagging pain that tears at your heart — for all lost moments, the ones so beautiful they could kill you.

He and his fractured souls are why so many of us turn to writing poetry.

Or, in our weaker moments, to listening to Bob Dylan and weeping.

If we’d only been smart, we keep saying. If we’d only been smart we would have changed the dial.

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Tags: essays book, writing

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