Inside the opening pages of my last book, Greyhound, there's a musical quotation from the rock band U2. It's a single line of lyric from the song Acrobat, released in 1991.
Don't believe what you hear, don't believe what you see ...
If you just close your eyes, you can feel the enemy.
I've often heard back from readers about the haunting nature of that line in context with the book and how touched they were by it, and how many of them sought out the song, as they may have heard it before, but they probably didn't listen. And, yes, there's a huge difference between the two. It's like the difference between speed reading -- and reading normally. Lots of ideas get jettisoned very quickly in the turbulent wake.
In my current novel, Fugue State, which deals a lot with the entire album The Unforgettable Fire, the effect it had on me when I had joined the Marine Corps, as well as going onto the battlefield of the Persian Gulf War. Most specifically, my memories had been kept safely inside, guarded by the lyrics of the song Bad. I wanted to put them at the front of the book in much the same manner we did with Acrobat and Greyhound, but the lawyers were hesitant in this new era of extreme litigation, even from a band that has prided (sorry) themselves on taking the high road with this particular subject, repeatedly.
If I could, I would let it go, surrender, dislocate.
So, it was suggested that we contact their Principal Management company in Dublin, get them on the phone, and see if you could open a channel for this dialogue to let this occur. I fretted ringing them up. I was in a deep fear over it. Why? You may ask?
After all these years of speech training, trying to sound legitimate in large groups of adults, and remaining calm, I still stutter. When I'm nervous, I stutter badly. It's just a residual effect of a childhood trauma and the welling up of uncontrolled fear. It happens to a lot of adults, so I know it's a common thing for some folks. I can cope, but it's never easy. I do my best.
So, I begged my good friend Terry, over at Amazon Publishing, to see if he could get Amazon's Lawyer's to call over for me and get permission. From what I understand, both things happened: he called, and then Legal followed up -- both to no avail. Feeling smoted, blighted and sad in my semi-diffused state, I sucked it up and called them myself. Yeah ... I got nowhere. I did get my words out, but nothing happened. It was like speaking into a tin can. The only difference was that I couldn't see the bottom of the empty tin.
It was heartbreaking. Nobody called back, and thus I was confronted via email that the text had to be stricken as well as a line towards the end, where I'm sitting in my Humvee, emotionally detached, listening to Bad, over and over. The last time I spoke with Terry, I could tell from the tone in his voice that no one had responded back to our request.
Now, those that know me, know that I could tell them volumes of different and interesting stories about my own travels, which usually include U2 in one way or the other, or even just stories about U2 themselves. I can sing almost their entire catalogue, which I do via karaoke in my front room with my five-year old son, Fox, who firmly believes that Bono (Paul Hewson), is my dad or rather, "Papa's Papa." I never had a father, and in all honesty, the truth of the lyrics and the hypnotic tone of the music were, sometimes, the only touchstone I had when I was trying to get through some very, very difficult years. It made sense to my son, and I left it at that because I knew my own father would never walk through the door laughing heartily, be happy to see us, and bellow out "Hello, everybody!"
"Why doesn't papa's papa come see you?"
"Well, in our family, Foxey, what we do, is try to do our best to make other people happy. That's what papa's papa does too. You'll do the same when you're big."
"But he never comes home."
"Well he does, Fox. Everybody goes home at night."
Bono's conviction in the living was what I needed. I wrote at the end of Greyhound how they had made my life more bearable and worth living when things got too dark to see. Fox has several favourite songs and will likely continue my love of these guys. I honestly don't give a damn if people just don't understand. It might have been me that got through those times, but while I was alone -- I honestly wasn't alone. For some, that's what music is.
Yes, I'm just a fan. I saw them in Los Angeles, once, during the Pop tour, and was overwhelmed. I've written a lot of different product reviews on them, both good and bad, gotten into public forum debates about small details, but I became a fan when everyone thought it was cool to speak poorly of them and whine endlessly about U2 trying to rise too high and too quickly with Rattle & Hum.
I documented my feelings quite extensively with my disdain for Roger Ebert (god bless him) who seemed to slip into a vacuum during the eighties, hating everything that was honest and lasting from that whole era, Blade Runner being the most glaring. Ebert's sway prompted Rolling Stone to crap on R & H as well, which pretty much set the tone of the reception. We now have another documentary called From The Sky Down, which chronicles this debacle closely and functions as an almost direct answer to all that nonsense which never really went away. If you haven't seen it, you probably should. Regardless how you feel about the band.
So, here I am, just a few days before Fugue State comes out, milling around my house in Palm Desert, watching Rattle & Hum on the home theatre, loudly, and wondering how the world is going to receive the book, which is raw, honest, and gives the reader an over-the-shoulder look at my life from 1988 - 1992, which I can only hope is received well. I doubt I'll clean up, or pay off my student loans, or even get ahead, but I hope enough people read it and see themselves and their own journey through mine. That's the point. Greyhound, now, is a testament to just that.
Thought I'd share this as I move closer to the book launching and perhaps give the reader something else to think about when it does.
All the best ... "Fade away ..."