Sound Check/Getting Started

I love a statement I found attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: “I wish to be known all over Europe for my humility.” Throughout my time as a writer and musician, I’ve tried to harbor a similar inclination, a sort of quiet pride in what I’ve done, but I am also well aware that, as far back as 1959, author Norman Mailer espoused, when it came to calling attention to one’s own work, what is a more efficacious attitude. He published Advertisements for Myself—and set the tone for a future we are all a part of now. So here’s Bill’s Blog.

I’ve been writing seriously for fifty-two years and playing jazz piano, professionally, since the age of sixteen, and the latter activity has led me to value spontaneity and improvisation far more than a calculated approach to anything. This preference has carried over into my writing as well (even though I revise or re-write like crazy!). I therefore intend to make this blog as accessible, congenial, comfortable as I can (a place folks just might want to drop in on the way they “drop by” someone’s house)—although I do have two solid reasons for undertaking a blog:

(1)   I have a new book out—six years of work I am so quietly proud of that I don’t mind making some noise about it now: a book called The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir. I’d like to let as many people know about this book and where it’s available as I can.

(2)   Also: in a casual, perhaps even “chatty” way (thus: no fancy title of intention, just “Bill’s Blog”), I’d like to tell a story of, I feel, universal interest, one above and beyond self-concern: the story of a seventy-seven year old writer who, having exhausted traditional means of “self-presentation” he’d been familiar with for fifty-two years (and slowly watching them grow “out-of-date”) has been teaching himself–with much help from family and friends (young and old)–the most recent means of making not just a book but anything of value better known–a road, a “conversion,” that has not been easy, but one that many of you (young and old) are familiar with: learning the Brave New World of digital self-presentation and interaction.

I’ll tell some of that story in the next section–“About”–but let me wrap up this one by mentioning something my father said to me when I was quite young. He was a man who is well represented in The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir, a genuine raconteur, a fine storyteller who came north to Detroit from Arkansas in 1931, a man who loved to dance and did so with a wry smile on his face, performing his first-rate soft-shoe on tiles in front of our living room fireplace while I played “Tea for Two” on the piano (“Play the ditty, Bill!”), a man who made it possible for me to grow up in a house of metaphor. If someone was ineffectual, my father would claim he was “a one-legged man in a kicking contest”; if unscrupulous, “so crooked he could curl up in a corkscrew and sleep with great repose.” But what I remember for the purpose of this introduction are words I thought, at the time, originated with him but which turned out to be strictly Biblical: “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.”

That bushel has been lifted, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi, Norman Mailer, and my father. I hope you enjoy–and will respond to!–these first results.