May 24, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Just in time for June the month we celebrate fathers, Petaluma resident, Marlene Cullen, has released another collection in her Write Spot series this time featuring those patriarchs. Some of the vignettes are written by fathers, some are about fathers written by sons and daughters. Some are true and some are flights of fancy but the theme is paternity.
Most pieces start out as free writes, just getting thoughts out on paper. Then this is the formula. After each composition the prompt that inspired it is indicated. Then there is a very interesting section on how the writer was able to quiet his "inner critic". Some writers even personify that pesky fellow and give him or her a name. The "inner critic" consists of that amorphous, spectral person who admonishes us and diminishes our self-confidence. Then there is a brief biography and a resume of past accomplishments and maybe a photograph.
The introduction called "Circles of Life, Circles of Death" tells us to embrace death. Whether you are dying to live or living to die will describe your journey. These stories trace how an individual might perceive that journey. The first section tells of a literary but eccentric father who left seven kids in Marin and traveled around California with his little dog, Fred, in the passenger seat of his truck. There were several stories about dogs, some were happy retellings, some were macabre. Some offerings were in epistolary form. In a letter a father told of an experience in India during WWII when he adopted a pet leopard. Another was a diary recounting incidents from that same war but in the Pacific. The diary became absolutely fascinating as the reader of that diary became a writer by summarizing every paragraph in Haiku poetry. Another tells of a hippie couple who pretend to be married so as not to upset an elderly and very frail grandmother.
Memories is the fourth book Cullen has edited. The others are Write Spot: Discoveries, Reflections and Connections. In this last one the editor even bares her own soul and recounts her less than idyllic childhood with an alcoholic father. In all, Cullen exhorts us to, "just write!" She feels that it is a practice that is entertaining and therapeutic and there is the added pleasure of being able to share thoughts and feelings with others. She always gives hints, directions and instruction on how to embark on what could be a cathartic experience. She tries to ignite "the spark". Diaries, journals, letters, fiction or non-fiction get those words down on paper.
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