Monday, June 9, 2014

Week 13

I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m going to write a sonnet series about the creation of California. I’m using the dual stories of William Mulholland and John Muir to tell the story of water in California, what really made it what it is. Ann’s a visual artist, so she’s going to do the graphic art work for it.

I’m almost to the point in my research when I can start to write the poems, but I’ve spent the last week trying to find a way to make Mulholland likeable. He was an interesting and good-hearted man, at least at the beginning. The problem is that his fall was so great, that it’s hard to see anything but the fall.

I started the week reading the section in Cadillac Desert that describes his reaction to Yosemite. Essentially he said that the national parks should send out photographers to the park and have every inch photographed so everyone could enjoy it for the rest of history, then: "I would build a great dam and stop all the goddamn waste."

How can I create a sympathetic character out of someone who would say something like that? I think the most interesting thing he says there is that he’s worried about waste. He was worried that the water was running off and feeding animals and trees only. To him that was waste, which means that he was putting humanity as his primary concern.

I think part of the problem I’m having as well is relying too heavily on books. For a book to sell, it needs to be slanted and dramatic. I need to find a different slant, and I think this might have to do with museums that are pro-Mulholland. So this next week, I will research that. And then, the beginning of the poems!

I’m excited.


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  2. I like your take on Mulholland, John, and think you're accurate in that he viewed water as an essentially human resource, not unlike some water advocates today. I'm looking forward to reading your finished project, and to enjoying Ann's artwork, as well. Fingers crossed that it all goes well!

  3. I have great difficulty with the point of view that all the earth's resources were created to be exploited by humans. But many feel that way, and I think that to understand Mulholland requires coming to grips with that whole ideology.

  4. So good to see the use/reading of Cadillac Desert... That book really opened my eyes to the development of the West through our water and lack thereof.