Guest post: A Howl for Mayflower by Dan Gilmore @SBPRA


Aging widower Tobias Seltzer prefers to spend his time with dead authors rather than live, but flawed, humans. That is, until the night Mayflower Bryant corners him in the basement laundry of the Coronado and persuades him to dance with her in his skivvies. Almost against his will, Tobias is drawn into the lives of his misfit neighbors - a grieving widower, a pregnant, homeless teenager, a one-handed juggler, a Vietnam vet left brain-damaged by a misfired suicide attempt, a woman on the edge of Alzheimer's - and discovers that all problems can't be solved by reading books. Sometimes, the only solution is life itself. Dan Gilmore's debut novel takes a darkly humorous, painfully honest look at this last-minute journey toward love and self-discovery.

Guest Post: 

When I was a kid I crawled under the fence at the Orange Show in San Bernardino, California.  I had no money, so I walked around the carnival with a casual air, doing my best imitation of someone who belonged there. One thing I saw was a long line of women waiting to have their portraits drawn by a blind artist.

          Before he drew them, his fingers moth-winged over their foreheads, their hair, down the slope of their nose, over their lips, their chin and neck. After a while he’d look up and smile as if he’d seen a holy vision. Then he’d draw.

          And when he finished he’d hold up his drawing, and the women would ooh and ah, clasp their hands to their hearts, and tell him what a amazing artist he was. The thing was, his drawings didn’t look anything like the women. Some were downright grotesque. I couldn’t figure out why on earth those women would spend good money on this fraud.

          Years later in my continuing struggle to be a writer, I think of that blind artist, how he drew his portraits with supreme confidence, how joyfully he worked, the genuine happiness of those women whose portraits he drew.

          And I see now that from his perspective he got it right every time. He was never  compelled to erase or redo or apologize. I’m betting that he must have lived his life warmed by the creative glow of knowing that he had really “seen” his subjects. I betting also that women who stood in line were waiting, no, craving to be seen.

          Isn’t being seen, I mean being really seen from the inside out, the most precious gift an artist can give a viewer, a listener, a reader. Don’t the greatest works of art awaken us to our own aliveness because we know we have been seen at a deep level? I can’t imagine a gift more precious. I would stand in a line for a long time to receive it.

          Being seen by anyone—a lover, a friend, an artist—somehow completes us. Rodin said that when he finally put his hammer and chisel down, stood back, and circled around his work, he heard the sculpture say, I am complete now. You have finished me. Have a glass of wine now and rejoice in my completion. And today, when I see his sculptures they seem to glow with an inner eye of recognition. As Rilke says in his poem Archaic Torso of Apollo: “. . . for there is no place at all that isn’t looking at you. You must change your life.” And that is what art does. It changes your life.       

          When Rilke was a young man, he worked for Rodin as his secretary. Rodin’s advice to him was simply, “SEE!” And so Rilke spent six months at the Paris zoo watching a caged animal before he wrote his famous twelve line poem, The Panther. Rilke  saw into more deeply than any other poet. And I think in his way, the blind artist was doing the same kind of seeing.

          On those occasions when an artist or writer or musician open my caged heart, I feel completed, grateful that I’ve been allowed to exist in three dimensions if only to myself. Great art fills me with gratitude for being seen. That, I believe, is the purpose of all art. Failing that, it is mere curiosity and escapist entertainment.  

          I wonder also if the women who were drawn to the blind artist knew in some way that he would see them, that he would touch their own inner-rightness, their deeper beauty, their lonely souls. And I am almost certain their husbands laughed when they saw the blind artist’s portraits with a nose protruding from a forehead or an ear attached to a cheek. But, so what? I watched this blind artist all day, and I can assure you that the line grew longer and longer.

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Click HERE to visit the authors website.

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