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January 7, 2017: The Writing Life: The Kerry Dancer

I have been typing my father’s book into the computer. I just have a typewriter copy on hand. I’m a slow typist, so this is a near onerous process. I’m also a fast reader – I read way too fast, so I miss things. So this is forcing me to think about every word, sentence, paragraph. It’s amazing, I am seeing in typing this what I missed in reading it.

This is the worst possible time for me to be doing this. It’s winter, its dark, and I’m all alone. Pete is in CA. The Kerry Dancer is a very dark and sad book. It’s primarily a descriptive narrative – the narrator is my father who in the book goes nameless. His second oldest brother is Patsy-Twin. And the oldest brother is Jamey McCabe. Both Patsy-twin and my father are hard core Irish drinkers. Patsy-twin is a brawler. James McCabe is a doctor who paid his way through medical school by boxing. They are both small, light on their feet, wiry.

Kerry Dancer author and daugher

Patsy-twin throws someone through a plate glass window in a bar and Jamey sews him up. Jamey comes home drunk, falls down, cuts his chin open, wakes up, goes into his office and sews himself up. Such is life.

I know that my father is the narrator. And I know that in real life Jamey was his father. I have no idea who Pasty-twin was. I’ll call Carol, my dad’s wife, and ask her. Maybe she will know.

I’m able, as a writer/editor, to maintain authorial distance. I think that family members will really enjoy this book. No, enjoy isn’t the right word, but it will have to do for now. The Kerry Dancer, in places, lacks context. This is a problem that is easily resolved. I will write an introduction to this book and fill in the blanks. I’ll say who all were in real life, and what their relationship to one another was. I’ll also identify places; for instance, my father writes about clinging to Jamey’s back when Jamey was out swimming. However, he doesn’t say where this takes place. This, after determining that the setting is the avenue, or Rochester New York’s Lyell Avenue, is confusing. I would not take liberties in the text in saying this – and actually, hesitate to take liberties in writing an introduction. However, I know that unless I do this, readers will abandon reading because they are confused. Dad might have said no, it is fine as is, but I just don’t think so.

Yes, this book needs a context. And I’m the one to give this book the needed context. I could not have done this when I was younger. I did not then have any critical acuity. My critical acuity is still limited, but not as limited as my mathematical abilities.

It is quite interesting. I recall reading this book when I was in college. My dad lent me his only copy. But I did not, until doing this second reading (many, many years later), recall any of it, except for a single page, one in which the my father, the narrator, the youngest brother, writes about coming in cold after sledding and putting his wet clothes on the radiator.

I also don’t recall feeling what I feel now – it’s a heavy feeling, it’s in my chest. I wish my father was still around so that I could talk with him about his early life and this book. I do very much regret that I didn’t, a few years back, ask him for a copy. The thought that I might assist in getting The Kerry Dancer published never crossed my mind.

I guess I have to believe that Dad’s out there somewhere and that he knows what I’m doing and that he’s pleased that I’m going about it the way I am. Writing and rereading the previous sentence makes me feel better. I have to keep this in mind when feeling the heavy feeling in my chest.

Next: 8. 1/8/17: The Horse Life: The Bridge to Everywhere

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