Some thoughts on Transformation

What struck me about the transformation theme for the first three books is the effort that went into transforming.

  • Jenna had to change the porn industry.
  • Stephen had to write prolifically, submit without fear, and revise every story that got rejected.
  • Colin had to create a new vision of himself. He was not the prodigy who failed to launch, destined to be Katherines’ reject. He had talent, he had a story, and he had potential.

All three of these people came to a realization about themselves in the stories we read. They all decided they could no go on the way they’d been going. Something had to change.

All art is about a willingness to be changed.

Either the artist is purging something, building something, or exposing something that changes him/her. Or the audience seeks to gain, to explore, or to understand something. The transaction should change them both.

So when Jenna, Stephen, and Colin meet for the first time, will each recognize the transformation in the other?

Jenna might see Colin and think, “He’s stopped taking himself so seriously. He sees the future as wide open. I like this guy.”

Stephen might ask Jenna, “What’s next? You’re an ambitious woman. Surely you have some other scheme cooking.”

Or Colin may wonder if Stephen has considered retiring all together.

When we recognize in ourselves that we cannot go on as we have — maybe we’ve been unhealthy or irresponsible or inconsiderate or simply bored — we can make small adjustments or we can transform.

I like to say I’m a continuous self-improvement junky. What now to make me healthier? Well read? Conversational? How can I get smarter? Stronger? Faster?

I don’t have the beginnings Jenna had to overcome, the being-raised-by-a-single-mom thing that shaped Stephen, or the expectations of being a child prodigy. I have a relatively benign background without roots of distrust or danger.

My transformation(s) have always been toward my vision of my own life: How I want to live, how I want to be thought of, how I want to enjoy the moments I have with the people around me as long as they’re around. Whenever I think I’ve been treading water (not making progress in any particular direction) I try to find a new path that may bring art and change back into my life.

– Kasie

Beginnings

“She was young, beautiful, and damned. Her name was Vanessa. And she was dead.”
— Jenna Jameson

“The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.”
— John Green

“In the early nineties (it might have been 1992, but it’s hard to remember when you’re having a good time) I joined a rock-and-roll band composed mostly of writers.”
— Stephen King


Beginnings are extremely important, at least to me. My favorite writer of all time is Albert Camus, famous for opening his opus magnum L’Etranger: “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.” Just with that beginning, you’re already wondering Who died? (Is that how one says mother)? How did she die? When did she die? Why doesn’t this person remember when their mother died? So, just in that opener the reader is drawn in, questioning, and curious enough to read more.

Let’s look at our first three beginnings.

  • In Jenna Jameson’s case, we have a short Prologue that begins with someone dying as well. Who is Vanessa? Why does she die so young? Did someone kill her? Is that what she means by “damned”?
  • In An Abundance of Katherines, Green presents what seems to be something prolific as far as being a “dumpee” is concerned coupled with something as ordinary as taking a bath — an action completely lackluster in comparison to getting dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine. Why was he dumped nineteen times by girls with the same name? Why would someone dump a prodigy? Is he going to get her back? Why is he just taking a bath? Shouldn’t he do something else?
  • With Stephen King’s First Foreword (one of three), we’re given insight into his life in the early nineties as a purported writer-rockstar. Why is the band composed of writers? Why start a band when you’re a writer? What did they get out of this? Was it really that “fun”?

Of course, these initial incidents or conflicts or, at the very least, questions are soon expound upon (whether very quickly or throughout the duration of the piece). But the significance is not only how, if they are, these questions are answered. The greater idea with posing these questions is to get a reader interested in the story you’re telling.

I have begun all three books by this point and the beginnings have not disappointed. In King’s book, he is addressing a bit of autobiography after the introduction to the piece as an attempt to explain what the leaflet explanation of the book calls “the inextricable link between writing and living.” The first section of this book after the Forewords is what he is calling a C.V. It is a catalogue of the life he has lived from his earliest memory to contemporary life to try and make sense of how all of those things created the writer. Jenna Jameson begins similarly, stating her struggles in her childhood and teenage years with her first boyfriend and how the decision to be with him, to go to the river, led to a downfall she had never seen coming. Colin Singleton’s story begins a little differently, entrancing us with a mixture of the nuanced character traits and specific memories and insecurities that make up the perfectly relatable YA novel protagonist (even if he is just a kafir, sitzpinkling over a girl who’s likely long gone — and completely absent as of yet).

So then what does this tell us about story-telling? Transformation. That’s the theme of the first set and that’s what we’re already seeing with these three books. There has to be something that happens for these characters that makes Jenna Jameson’s “A Cautionary Tale,” Stephen King’s “A Memoir of the Craft,” and Green’s “a mission.” There is for each of these characters a choice, an event, or a set of a events that will come about at which point a transformation must occur. What will come of this road trip with Hassan? How does she know The Preacher killed Vanessa? How does a life lived inform a writer’s bibliography?

– Preston