Wednesday, October 29, 2008

LIFE AFTER GENIUS

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I have known several geniuses in my short years, and in truth I saw glimpses of each of them in Mead, the genius in M. Ann Jacoby's LIFE AFTER GENIUS. One of them in particular really stood out to me in reading about Mead. My favourite teacher in high school was a genius (is a genius), he scored insanely high on his SAT and yet he currently lives with his mom, unmarried at the age of 62, and is one of the most socially awkward, blunt people I have met in my life (and I have tons of Italian relatives!). I think about him often, I loved him, in a fully platonic way. I took all his classes, which were actually all of my favourites. I had him for Politics and Government, Senior Seminar (random important stuff to know class), Photography, and Track and Cross Country. I took a class on stock markets my senior year, and several (more than several) times over the last months I have so wanted to call him and as him what he thinks, how he feels about this change in our economics, but I haven't. I haven't visited him in over 7 years.

You might think that is normal, not to go back and visit your high school teacher, but I went to boarding school, and it is really close to where I live. He was my dad away from home, and I just can't bring myself to visit. Why? Well, if you have ever known one of these types you will get it. Last time I went I took my soon-to-be husband down. I sat there for 30-45 minutes while he explained to (B) how I could have been a much better athlete in high school, but that I didn't make it my focus. He went on to tell (B) that my time from my junior year would have taken state by one minute if I had run the same time my senior year instead of opting to run shorter races out of laziness. That is the last time I visited. I wasn't angry, or even upset it was just what I would have expected from him. He knew me, knew my stats better than I did and I am sure still does, he did the mathematical calculations of track lap times in his head, minus the delay you would exhibit out of fatigue. It is insane and he was always right.

I did feel pride when he liked what I did, all the high schoolers did. He was proud of my photographs, so much so, that he entered them into a contest. He also told me that one of my pictures had the best focus that he had ever seen, that it was perfect. I will remember that, that sense of pride. He is an amazing man and I have always known that...but social skills do not come packaged with the brilliance. I almost would say with certainty that I have never met a truly brilliant person who had their social life put together. I have known several and it seems people in their life are just too much for them, too unpredictable, incalculable. But is it them, or is it us? Why do we measure others by what comes so easily to us? What is the deal with that?

I know this is not really a normal review for me. I will post the full review of LIFE AFTER GENIUS in a couple of days. I got my book super late and am over half-way, but I love it so much that I WILL NOT skim or try to rush it. I am in love with Mead, the genius in the M. Ann Jacoby's novel, he is so sweet, so endearing and complex. I am eating this novel up right now. YUM. How have I been so blessed to read so many amazing books recently?? I just can't get over how lucky I am!

An article by M. Ann Jacoby, the author of LIFE AFTER GENIUS

LIFE BEFORE GENIUS

Following is the first paragraph of the first draft of LIFE AFTER GENIUS:

Theodore Mead Fegley was named after his mother’s uncle who had money. It was hoped that, for this reason, little Teddy might be looked upon favorably by his great uncle, possibly even included in his will, since the senior Teddy was an old man who’d never gotten married and had no children of his own. It didn’t happen that way though. Theodore Mead, the original, met little Teddy only once. At his eightieth birthday celebration. The infant was placed in the aging man’s lap and tickled repeatedly in an effort to get the small child to smile up at his namesake. But the reaction the tickling induced came from the wrong end and little Teddy was removed in a flurry of apologies, leaving a wet stain on the senior Teddy’s trouser leg. At the reading of the will seventeen months later, it was revealed that Theodore Mead had left all his money to the First Presbyterian Church, an act that little Teddy’s mother took to be a personal affront. It was the first of many times that little Teddy would feel that he had failed his mother.

In this first draft, when my novel was titled The Undertaker’s Son, I followed Mead from birth to 18 years old. He experienced several childhood mishaps but nothing ever really “happened.” One agent, who liked the above paragraph enough to ask to see the first 100 pages, sent them back with the comment that I had written what seemed like more of a character exploration than a novel. At the time I was at a loss as to what that meant. Only after I learned more about plot and structure was I able to go back and read his comment and know what he was talking about.

That’s the way it happened for me. I learned in fits and starts. Herman made his first appearance at the end of my fourth draft (or was it the fifth?). My readers liked him. So I went back and wrote what I came to think of as the Herman chapters. Then I took a class where the instructor focused on Structure. Out of that I got the idea to go back and forth between the Herman chapters and the Home chapters leading up to the climax where the two storylines meet.

With all this in place I got an agent. A couple of drafts later he was ready to send it out to publishers. And even after I had a signed contract there were more drafts.

Revisions, revisions, revisions. They are a fact of every writer’s life. I used them to learn.


Copyright © 2008 by M. Ann Jacoby



WARNING! Don't watch this unless you want to have to read the book!!! :)

M. Ann Jacoby talks about Life After Genius:

10 comments:

Anna said...

What an interesting story. Thanks for sharing! I'm looking forward to your review. Overall, I enjoyed the book.

The guest post from Ms. Jacoby was great, too. Interesting to know that Herman wasn't added until much later, and he winds up being such an important character!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

This is a great story. I can't wait to read your review of this one. It's good to know that he remembered your stats and you period...I've visited teachers from high school and they struggled to remember me only a few years after I graduated

Miriam Parker said...

Love this story. It's funny how a certain moment is cemented in time in our minds and when we try to recapture it...it's so fleeting...

Toni said...

HI there...
What a nice post.

I am curious to see what you think of the rest of the book.

I was very engrossed in the story also. I was reminded of an old friend of mine...who was a "wannabe" genius.

.Books by TJ Baff said...

I truly believe that "geniuses" are cut from a different cloth than us mere mortals. They have so much going on in their heads that there isn't room for the niceties of normal society.
I always think that that philosophy explains alot.
:)
Tamara

bermudaonion said...

Fantastic post!

wordlily said...

Psst! Congrats! Did you see Dewey's read-a-thon followup post? http://deweymonster.com/?p=1006 Send me your mailing address, and I'll make sure the prize donors get it.

WordLily AT gmail

beastmomma said...

I am glad that you have been able to have some great books lately because it means that I get to hear about some great books. What a gift to be able to read each others stories!

Sheri said...

I am glad that you are enjoying the book. I liked it too!

Luanne said...

Hey Bethany;

I really enjoyed your story. I too enjoyed the book very much. Some readers have been unhappy with the ending - I'll watch for your review. Aren't these tours fun - seeing what everyone thought of the same book?