At first, my friend Fred Fullerton was going to hold off reading my novel Peace, Love, and You Know What until it came out in paperback. But then he couldn’t resist. After all, he makes a cameo appearance.
Fred is one of the party-goers at the three-day graduation bash held at a slummy, college apartment. Joey, a brainy but nervous guy who loves poetry, is one of the roommates. It’s the first night of the bash. Here is the excerpt:
Joey sat several feet away, talking it up with another heavy thinker, a guy who returned to Westbridge on the GI Bill after being stationed in Europe. He was into that expat thing, wearing a beret and smoking a pipe. The two were deep into William Carlos William’s Kora in Hell Improvisations. Joey rushed to the attic to get his copy, dog-eared and filled with his notes. The two passed a joint and read the best passages aloud while the expat’s foxy German wife chain-smoked unfiltered Gauloises.
“Read that line again. I think I heard something new there,” Joey told the expat.
Fred attended Bridgewater State College, now a university, in the sixties. He went into the service and was stationed in Germany before returning to finish his degree. He moved back to Germany after he graduated, but now lives in the U.S.
I met Fred during his second go-round at the college. We have remained very good friends since, keeping in contact via letters, emails, and visits when I am back East. Yeah, he’s a heavy thinker with a great sense of humor. He’s also a reader and writer. And, he’s also one of the few people I used directly as inspiration for this comedy from the seventies.
So, although Fred read earlier drafts of the novel, he downloaded the Kindle app to his computer April 18. Then, the emails began. I am going to quote from the less personal messages.
Here’s the first: I downloaded the Kindle edition of Love, Peace & You Know What and want to read the final version since the last time I read it was while you were still editing it. I chuckled at the party scene where Joey and the expat are discussing and read William Carlos Williams Kora in Hell: Improvisations. I guess I’ll have to read it so I can discuss it with “Joey.”
Yup, Joey is another of my characters inspired by a real person. But this is fiction, not a memoir.
Then, I asked Fred to check the acknowledgements at the end of the novel. He’s in there.
The back and forth began. Fred would read a little. I would find a question in my email, several times a day.
Curious …who was the gay prof at the 3-day party at 221 Winter St.?
He asks about other characters. He recalls dear friends from our tribe who died. I let him know which characters are total fabrications, which are most of them.
I’m having a ball reading this book. Even though I read earlier drafts, this is much improved and really funny! It’s also bringing back lots of memories … the coffee shop (I lived in the boarding house above it my freshman year), and other places. I spent many, many evenings at Westbridge Apartments, which you accurately rename the Roach Motel!
Yes, it was an apt description of the row of apartments that resembled more of a motel than student housing. It’s no longer there. Also, 221 Winter Street is a variation of an actual address. The layouts of the campus and town were as I remember it then. (I haven’t been back since I graduated but I am planning a field trip soon.)
I’m reading your book as if I were drinking a fine wine or whiskey in small sips. At this rate, I might have a review for you by this weekend.
The emails sped up.
I also like how the music at Ned’s [Professor Ned Burke AKA Professor Groovy] memorial service is Edith Piaff’s “Non, je ne regrette rien.” It’s as apropos as his dying “in the saddle,” so to speak.
I listened to her sing that song a few times while I wrote the scene.
On April 22: I love the part where Joey teaches Beowulf to Mack’s class. Yes, Beowulf is a terrific tale. I can’t remember when I first read it, perhaps in high school, but I’ve read it a few times since.
I tell Fred I had to teach Beowulf to high school freshmen when I was a student teacher. I don’t think I was very successful. I only got a B.
You rascal! You put your dad in there as Coach Tony Madrid! 😀
Yes, I used my father for the character of the man who was retiring after coaching generations of high school students. Tim, one of the main characters, is covering his retirement sendoff for a newspaper.
I’m almost done. Your book is laugh-out-loud funny. I especially cracked up when Manny said, “I feel like I’m in somebody’s acid trip.” You’ve got so much going on in the book. It’s not only a roman à clef but also a Bildungsroman with a good dose of Sturm und Drang!
I tell Fred I still find the book funny after reading it a zillion times.
And on April 23: The review is “alive” on Amazon. It was fun to do!
Yes, you can go to Amazon and see it for yourself. Fred gave the novel five stars. Thank you dear friend.
Peace, Love, and You Know What will be out in paperback hopefully soon. I am going to attempt audio, even with my New England accent.
PHOTO ABOVE: I used this photo once before for my piece about my obsession with Bob Dylan’s music. My sister sent me this photo. I am sitting in somebody’s car while I am wearing big, pink sunglasses. I don’t remember who took it or the occasion. But I like the stray curl.