Chris Rice Cooper

Chris Rice Cooper
Chris on July 28, 2017

Monday, September 9, 2013

Scripted Interview with Fiction Writer Wayne Lanter, His Newest Novel THE FINAL DAYS!


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The Scripted Interview:
Poet and Fiction Writer Wayne Lanter,
His New Novel The Final Days.


            *This interview was conducted via email over a period of five weeks, where Lanter is presently in Paris, France, the place he visits every single year.  Lanter, resides in Belleville, Illinois where he teaches creative writing at Southwestern Illinois Community College. His most recent novel, The Final Days, was published by Twiss Hill Press this past March.  In this interview, Lanter discusses philosophy, writing, education, France, human compassion, and how it all plays out in his own life.

CCWriter - How, when, and where was the novel birthed?

Lanter - I began the novel, The Final Days, as a short story about a professor and a student involved in a sexual liaison, intending to use the encounter as a hook to hang some of the story on. But the original idea involved a good bit more than a professor-student affair, though that is where it would begin. I have always thought of learning, true learning, as an intimate experience of the Heloise and Abelard or Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel or David Hume and Nancy Ord variety. And there are others, countless others. There is, can be a deep passion in learning. Good teachers love those who want to learn and aspiring students love those who take the time and make an effort to help them become better human beings. Remember, education is the development of character, in the ancient Greek sense of the word, not merely picking up a piece of paper that gives you an opportunity to make more money than someone else and then make a fool of yourself for the rest of your life.







Then too, if we have learned something well we are forever grateful, admiring and in love with the person who instructed us—as opposed to how we feel when we are disgorged from the mass education industry/system where little is shared and little learned. Sometimes the intellectual intimacy includes the physical. It is only natural that at times academic intimacy would include a sensual assignation, which can be a wonderful way for people to know each other. Learning is intimate, a discovery—many times intellectual, emotional and physical—and beautifully and wonderfully so.    


Anyway, when I began the story I intended to develop the professor student affair into a short story, but at the time I was involved in the internecine battles raging in the college at which I was teaching. As it turned out, a day morphed into a month, then into a year, then several years, and I wrote the story out in longer, novelistic terms, using the professor-student relationship more as a catalyst to the volatility of the bigger story of the demise of the academy rather than the affair as a story in itself. Of course the story changed radically as it progressed, but that is usually the nature of human stories. Nothing ever works out the way you want it to, or even the way you think it might. I was five years younger than John Carter when I began The Final Days and five years older than John Carter when I finished it. 



CCWriter - Is any of The Final Days autobiographical or biographical?

Lanter - Of course we can only write about what we know. That is the nature of human knowledge. As Kant pointed out, we cannot think outside the space/time continuum. We, humans, matter, are literally composed of space and time. And I’m not using that as a metaphor. We are space and time. Space and time are the ingredients of our blood and bone and fiber.  The ancient Greeks understood that if we have not experienced something we cannot imagine it.  That doesn’t mean we can’t interpolate or translate or extend ideas from one to another as Berkeley pointed out. We can. But we are always limited in our imagination by the what-has-been of experiences, by what we are—space and time, and possibly energy. And what we know is always autobiographical, or I hope so, anyway.


Saul Bellow noted that “We (writers) always borrow from ourselves what we need.” It can’t be any other way. Of course John Carter is not Wayne Lanter. He only resembles me in the bit I could construct out of the little I know about myself of what I could also apply to him. But he is also bits and pieces of others, men and women, since we sometimes have similar though variable traits. Carter is fascinated with what he doesn’t know. So am I. But I do not do magic tricks, or “stunts,” as Morgana Carmichael calls them, as Carter does. I have sons, Carter, to his chagrin, has none.  I was never married to a woman older than me. I do not have a brother. Psychologically Carter is wound a good bit tighter than I am. Carter is critically intolerant of certain others, I am only marginally so. On and on. The story is only vaguely and occasionally autobiographical.



Likewise, it is somewhat, but only piecemeal, biographical, in that I take small, very small pieces of personalities I have observed and cobble them to make characters—a turn of phrase here, a twist of mouth or cast of eye there.  When Faulkner was asked if he had based or modeled a character on this or that Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So, he became irritated and said, “No, I can create characters better than god ever did.” And so it is. 


CCWriter - I thought John Carter’s love for philosopher David Hume, and for Ardyth and Mason—the connection he had with them and the love he had for them—in the end—was a kind of salvation for him as a person.  Do you agree?

Lanter - Chris, I’m not sure what salvation means. Humans live in a perpetual state of anxiety (existential anxiety) that cannot be placated or cured, although there are ways to ignore it—to a point. It has to do with energy and drive and death and all those other things that make us human. We simply cannot see the future or get out of our skin and nothing will relieve or pacify that discomfort.

Carter comes out of the tunnel, maybe in the last chapter, somewhat intact, but it would seem to me that that was a matter of survival instinct rather than redemption. He’s merely headed for another wilderness. Certainly Carter is a caring (loving) human being. I did not contemplate that Carter would wish anyone harm who was not out to literally destroy the culture we all depend upon. The combination here, again, comes from Immanuel Kant who thought that the only absolute in human existence is culture and the one most important individual human characteristic/attitude is good will. Carter, I think, exhibits uncommon good will toward those who are not out to destroy the culture, and on occasion even toward those who do not have a clue that what they are doing is destructive. So I’m not sure what Carter might have needed to be saved from or exactly how that might have been implemented.



Otherwise I do not see Carter as a hero, but as someone trying, as we all are, to unscramble the contradictory and deadly conditions of our daily lives. The story is confined to one month, December of 1995, the final days of the year, of a marriage, of a brief affair, of a teaching career, maybe of a dream for improving the culture, or even of a life—Carter’s life. The story is life as  progress, as painful progress, as the universe continues to expand, to move away from us, from Carter—the universe as becoming, changing, always different from what it first appears to be, from what we hope it is or fantasize what it will be. 



Carter’s fascination with David Hume is especially significant, in that a little over two hundred years ago Hume understood a good bit of what we are just today, psychologically and philosophically coming to realize about man and the human condition—about the truly unrelenting coming into being and going out of being of the material and, therefore, spiritual world that is embedded in the material. This is Sartre’s, existence proceeds essence.


CCWriter - In one passage John Carter is holding Vivien and he reads to her from Mary Oliver.  Is there any specific reason you chose Mary Oliver as the poet to read and what volume of poems (in your mind) did he specifically read to her?



Lanter – In that passage (scene) when I found Carter looking at the bookshelf, checking the titles, Mary Oliver was merely the first poet that came to mind. I have always appreciated Mary’s poetry, especially poems she has written about her family. I’m extremely fond of one called “A Letter from Home,” that ends,

She knows how people always plan
To live their lives, and never do.
She will not tell me if she cries.

I touch the crosses by her name;
I fold the pages as I rise,
And tip the envelope, from which
Drift scraps of borage, woodbine, rue.



I’ve always been touched by those lines. The subtle intrusion of distant, suspected sadness and regret. How we always fail to get it right, no matter how we try. I did not use the poem specifically in the passage, but maybe I should have.

CCWriter - John Carter is a moralist despite his affairs and drinking—he stood for what he believed was right, was loyal, and sensitive to other's feelings. Is this what you want your readers to get out of his character?



Lanter - I taught an introduction to ethics course for many years, and I found that students wanted to think of sex and drinking, and religion, as the center of morality. Of course they are not. Morality, ethics, means fairness. That is what ethos means. That is what justice means—being fair to others. That doesn’t mean that sex and drink can’t be used to harm others, they can. But they can also be used to help people. They are merely a means to an end. It is a matter of moderation, the Greek idea of temperance and balance. Since man needs pleasure, pleasure is a good, and sex and drink are both a means, but never an end in-and-of themselves. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said that with all their prohibitions, the English are not all that moral. They’re just in love with discomfort. So I definitely see Carter as moral. He is out to help, not harm others. And that’s the ultimate morality. Helping and not harming others. He wants to be fair, even if he comes out on the short end of the deal, which of course if it is fair would not be the short end at all, but the end that should be. That’s basically the socialist frame of reference. Carter believes in not imposing his standards on people, but also that they not impose their standards, such as greed and fear, on him or others. Then too, that’s what teaching is all about—to pry the student mind out of its egocentric shell and open it to the world. That’s only fair.


CCWriter - I also felt that John Carter was agnostic but almost deep down inside a part of him wished he was proven wrong.  Is this an accurate assessment?

Lanter - Of course if agnosticism was proven wrong it could go either way—into theism or atheism. Both suggest belief. On the other hand, the child in us, from which we cannot separate, ever, no matter our age, always wants to believe, to hope that there is a satisfactory solution to man’s condition, death and dying, and that somehow everything will be alright. Well, it won’t be alright. We are condemned to nothingness, each of us to oblivion. Maybe there’s some small part of this futile yearning, the childish egocentric assumption left in Carter. But the truth remains he is reconciled, at least to my intentions as I read the character, to nothingness. Carter is a practical human being who is best thinking “Alright, let’s not kid ourselves.” No one, no thing, is going to take us into some eternal bliss and contentment. I mean there’s no Santa Claus or Superman here.  Consciousness as we know it is a product of the physical world, the material world, the binding of space and time and gravity and energy and of what else we are not yet sure, an accident, albeit a pretty spectacular one, though there may be all kinds even greater and more splendid. We just don’t know. Of course that does not preclude spirituality, but man’s spirit is confined to the material world. That is why religion has always attached itself to physical art: the literature of the Bible, the painting and sculpture of the best human artists—it is always physical. The spiritual always springs from the physical. So our task is to get on with it and do what we can with what we have at hand in the time we have.



Simply put, Cater would probably tell you that there is nothing to save us from. And the hope, belief of continued consciousness after the physical apparatus has disintegrated is nonsensical. We know that if we remove or interfere with small pieces of the brain, consciousness (rationality, thinking) cannot be sustained. So the presence of what or whoever is supposed to be out there to make it all right is moot. Maybe Carter hopes to be proven wrong in his assessment of the corrupted human psyche, of man lying to himself and to his fellowmen. Maybe. But given the history of mankind, the chances of even that seem slim, indeed. I think that’s what Carter would tell you.



CCWriter - There appear to be two themes in The Final Days.  Man's search for meaning and the demise of the exceptional education institutions in favor of the corporate college or university.

Lanter - I am not certain that John Carter in The Final Days is searching for meaning. At least I do not understand him that way. Carter has a firm set of standards he accepts as necessary in human interactions. Lying, stealing (under any capitalist guise) and hating, and fear, are all evils. The virtues are still courage, temperance and justice. Helping humans understand and appreciate and find happiness is a good. Still, Carter is racked with the inevitability of the human condition; time eating away at his energy and the overwhelming reality of not-so-virtuous, or not-always-kind human nature, including Carter’s—although I do not consider Carter’s sexual interests or drinking as corruptions. They may be foibles and follies, but they are not dishonesty and/or perfidies that harm other people. Most of the story is not what Carter believes or judges it to be in the first place. By the end of the book, the world Carter thought or thinks is/was there is topsy-turvy. People he likes and admires betray him or die. Even Crowly, who Carter despises and then finally sees as a sad, sad man, and for whom Carter finally has some small sympathy, even Crowly dies. People Carter initially dislikes befriend and support him. Events he thinks he understands become mysteries. Principles he has held, (that people are good and sincere) and taken for granted, crumble. The environment is one gigantic magic trick: sleight-of-hand and smoke and mirrors. Something like the world physicists are finding in quantum mechanics.



Otherwise Carter is modern, late twentieth century man. I shaded him toward Antoine Roquentin in Sartre’s La Nausée, Meursault in Camus’ L’Étranger, and Santiago in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. One review of The Final Days  noted that "Here The Closing of the American Mind meets The Professor of Desire. The dominant, egomaniacal protagonist (John Carter) is more likable than a Roth or Bellow professor, as his heightened humanity softens his aggressively intolerant intellectual side. He’s a protagonist who initially seems like a Hemmingwayesque drunk, womanizing bully of an academician, a professor of ethics without an ethical clue. In the true novel-as-process mode, however, we can soon see Carter as a victim, the last philosopher in Philistia, who actually does want to help the weak.” So far so good, though I did not intend, nor do I even today see Carter as a victim.  On the other hand he is certainly not one of Woody Allen’s schlemiels, whimpering and whining about how the world is mistreating him.








CCWriter - Do you think American universities are in danger of going through what Barker State goes through?

Lanter - Of course Carter’s situation with Barker State University reflects what has been going on in colleges and universities in the United States for well over a hundred years—and is still going on today—the corporatization of the academy, corporate executives attacking the professorate and watering down academic standards to turn higher education institutions into for-profit enterprises. In the past only some small parts of higher education were exceptional. Today even those small parts have been badly diluted and corroded. And that certainly is one of the stories or themes of The Final Days. I’d suggest that anyone interested in the source of The Final Days also read Defending the Citadel: Confronting Corporate Management and Corruption in an Illinois Community College, which I wrote shortly after I finished The Final Days. 





CCWriter - This book was published ten years ago—what changes did you make in this new edition and why now?

The changes were minimal. I cleaned up some of the language to make it a little less bombastic and added a few scenes to heighten the absurdity of the environment Carter finds himself in. But otherwise, the changes were minimal. Why Now? Well, I first published it in 2003, that’s ten years ago, and, even as a work of fiction, I think it is even more relevant now than it was then. These things, the enfeeblement of higher education in the USA, the increasing hatred and violence and disregard for others in our society, don’t go away easily.  Then too, there are in 2013 only a few copies of the original available, and the reprint added to that, considerably.



CCWriter - The end of the novel to me was a beginning of a new novel for John Carter.  What is John Carter's next wilderness?  Do you have a sequel planned?

Lanter – Other readers have observed that there might be or should be a sequel to The Final Days. If I were twenty years younger, maybe. Sometimes when a book has taken as long to write as it took me on this one, a writer just doesn’t have the fire-power or interest to go through all of that again. Then, too, I don’t know if I could recapture the mind-set, the psychic frame to do another run on Carter. I finished the book twenty years ago and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. I’m a totally different person (writer) than I was then. Maybe I could get into Carter twenty years later, but I’m not sure there would be a story to tell. So I don’t see a sequel as at all likely, unless . . .



CCWriter – How did you physically write the first word of this novel?  How did you write this novel —handwriting (what kind of tablet, etc. pen? pencil?) or computer? Was it in outline or actual word of the story?

Lanter - I begin with pen (maybe a Bic—the cheaper the better, one given to me or one I found) in hand and paper on the desk. While at university I spent two years in law school during which time I got in the habit, comfort, of writing on legal pads. Legal pads are longer than letter size and therefore it takes longer to get to bottom so you don’t have to disturb the universe by turning the page nearly as often.



Stories, poems, always begin with me in some line or lines hopping around in my head for a day or two or three or more, vying for attention with the more mundane distractions of daily life, until I give in and commit them to cursive on a yellow legal pad.


More than that I plot as I go, at least at the beginning, then fill in pieces as I think of them. Of ten hours of writing I think for six hours, write for one and rewrite for three. On occasion I would be mowing the lawn, or involved in some other humdrum activity, languorously floating in the regions of non-think, when an idea for the story would suddenly come to mind. I would come up with “Damn, that’s what Carter would do.” Or, “You know what that silly sucker did? Crowly. Yeah, Crowly did that.” Often I would shut off the mower or prop the leaf rake against the house and go looking for a glass of ice tea and a pen, which I always kept on the kitchen table, and a napkin and write out the scene. I had a box on my desk filled with scenes scrawled on napkins that ended in the story. My wife said one time that living with a writer was like a ménage à trois, there is always someone else there, always another presence.


Mostly I write with a ball-point pen, then later commit the prose to a computer and print out a hard-copy for editing. However, the computer usually comes in quite late. The printed word, literally printed and not hand-written, is enormously deceptive. It’s so slick that it can easily lead me to suppose that what I have written is better than it actually is. Cursive on the other hand is quite personal and shows all the flaws of character and profession I might have that slip in to ruin the story. I can more easily spot self-indulgence in cursive than I can in print—at least my variegated brands of self-indulgence.   

CCWriter - How many hours did you write per day and from where?

Lanter - These days I am usually at my desk by eight o’clock and work until noon or maybe twelve-thirty, even when I’m in Paris or Naxos. Sometimes, in the evening, I go back and work an hour or so. On certain projects I will expand the hours. If I get caught up in the turmoil of the words I may lengthen the daily devotion. In writing At Float on the Ohtagawa I worked seven hours a day for six months and at the end felt like a cinder, actually burnt to a crisp. I did not write anything after that for four or five months. And this didn’t have anything to do with writer’s block. I was totally disgusted with the practice—totally disinterested.



Otherwise, I try not to mess with anything when I’m tired. I found that no matter how good the stuff is, when I’m tired, it looks bad. Afternoons, I use for reading and research, and for laundry and washing dishes.



On occasion I will move my writing locale, though I am not much affected by table, desk, room, etc. In Paris I usually work in front of an open window overlooking the courtyard. The small activity of people coming and going, the voices lifting to my window, is a nice stimulant for musing and getting ideas, scenes, from one place to the other. Some days I go to Jardin du Luxembourg and sit among the readers and write. It’s very pleasant. Of course, when things do not go well, there’s a couple of nice wine bars on the way back to my flat which are most accommodating in assuaging my frustrations.



CCWriter - I've heard some writers work on the first chapter until it's perfect, then go on to the next.  Or do you write the entire novel and then go back to revise? How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Lanter – Novelist Vance Bourjaily observed that the structure of a novel reflects the novelist’s concept of time. I think that writing and re-writing also reflect the writer’s concept of time. In The Final Days Carter drifts back and forth in a present-mist between the past and future, and with writing and rewriting, I too most often am buffeted between past and future.


Hemingway suggested that, “You should leave yourself something to do tomorrow.” I would always begin the day literally copying the last page from the day before, usually without revising or editing. Then to get into the swing of the story I would read what I had so far. This of course often led to adding and subtracting (rewriting), so by the time the rough draft was done the first twenty pages had been rewritten sixty or seventy times, the second twenty or so pages maybe fifty times, etc. At this rate it took me about six years to get a rough draft. Then another four years to edit and rewrite. But then I’m a slow writer. If I get a page or page and a half a day, that’s a lot.



 CCWriter - Do you believe in writer's block and if so - how do you conquer it?

Lanter - For me writer’s block isn’t a matter of belief. It is a term created as an excuse to not write. I always told my sons that there are a thousand reasons for not doing something, but only one reason for doing it, and that’s because you want to. I’m not much into blaming people or conditions (or for creating pop-culture psychological tags) for what we don’t want to do. I mean, the devil didn’t really make me do it, and he’s not keeping me from putting words on paper. Of course there can be a great deal of trepidation in the morning, hung-over or depressed, or maybe both, in facing a blank sheet of paper demanding something of devotion and the bitter lucidity writing requires. Still, the way to write is to write. Just get a sentence down on paper, then hang another one on the end of that. That’s writing—and if you have a pencil and paper, there’s nothing to stop you from doing that.



CCWriter - What books have you read that influenced you as a fiction writer?

Lanter - All of them. All of the books I have read, since all of human communication is narrative and narrative is always fictitious. It is impossible for humans to tell about or describe what is out there or what has happened as it is. As it is, is pretense. It is all invention. We think we see or hear something and then try to explain our interpretations to others. So we invent, and it never matches what is really there. Because the really there is vague and mysterious and always beyond actual, factual apprehension, and can only be related as a fiction.



CCWriter - What does writing do for you and your life?

Lanter - A number of writers (Faulkner for example) advised that if you don’t have to do it, don’t. I can’t really say what it has done for me. I’m not particularly enamored of whatever of audience my writing might generate. I find popularity rather distasteful. Off course I write to be read, but popularity, fame, critical acclaim too often go over the top. It all seems to me a sort of unwarranted flattery generated by people who hope to make money off the praise.




I suspect that at base writing is an ingrained part of my personality/character, as natural to me as breathing and walking. I started this thing when I was eight or so, and have often thought it was a ridiculous thing to do, and that I was totally unqualified to do it. Otherwise, it is an attribute I do not much encourage or think about. It is always there. If you ever go into a doctor’s office and find one of the outdated magazines in the rack has a page or two missing, you know I’ve been there. While waiting to be diagnosed with a rare but not deadly disease I filled the margins with scrawls and scribbles, and not willing to give up on whatever it was, I simply took the pages with me. Of course I didn’t need the whole magazine. And you should always leave something for someone else. 

I would suppose there are as many reasons for writing as there are writers. Writers tend to be disorganized persons, and scribbling does give a certain order to thinking and in my case to my life.
Also, I have an abiding appreciation for well composed phrases and sentences, for paragraphs that set out ideas and feelings that can touch the human soul. In other words, for beauty, if I can ever get to it.  



CCWriter - Your best advice for fiction writers who have yet to be published? 

Lanter - If you need to write, write. If not, don’t. If you must, then just tell the story. Don’t worry about literature or any of the supposed ingredients of fiction. Just tell me a story about how John’s flat feet infuriate his wife and embarrass his children, and the trouble their attitudes and reactions are causing the neighbors. And you might add a bit on what John thinks of all this. After all they are his feet and though they trouble him, he is quite proud of them, I mean, they work for him.  



CCWriter - Any projects you are working on now?

Lanter - Oh, three or four. At the moment there are two books of poetry, one finished (At the Crossroads in Samaria) and the other (rue Ancienne),  poems from Paris, nearly finished. Also I am near abandoning or ending a memoir, If the Sun Should Ask,   the third in the narrative trilogy of which The Final Days and Defending the Citadel are the other two. Then there’s an experimental novel I completed thirty years ago entitled Psyaint David: A Short History of Six Months of Fun and Bloodshed in the City of the Gods.  It is the story of the Son of Sam killer, David Berkowitz, hired to be on Kojak, told as a fairytale or folktale, maybe like “Hansel and Gretel” or “Jack and the Beanstalk” or “The Big Bear of Arkansas.” I’ll be working on it as soon as I get The Sun in print.



CCWriter - What is your favorite excerpt from The Final Days, and why? 

Lanter - Truthfully, I’ve never considered that. In writing you always hope the mountains are high enough and the valleys aren’t too low. But each scene is like a child—and as a parent you are not much inclined to favor one of your children over the other. At least I never was.  



I think maybe I would say the first two pages or so of “Chapter XIV.”

This is near the center of the book, chapter fourteen of twenty-six, and Carter has just discovered that his friend and officemate, Mason Oldam, is dead, that he has fallen or jumped or was pushed from a window at the hospital. Compulsively Carter goes to the bridge over the river near the hospital to review the scene of Mason’s death. He is isolated, as always, nearly totally by the weather, the darkness, the bridge, the night light over the bridge, etc. trying to comprehend how someone might commit suicide and actually thinks he sees Mason in a boat being poled across the river. Carter believes his insights, his perceptions have failed him and he entertains the possibility that he is losing his mind, or something comparable. At this point he has nowhere to go. He has seen more than he wanted to see, or had intended to find. The river passes beneath the bridge, the boat poles away up stream toward the farther bank, and Carter is left isolated and exposed to the elements, the unforgiving elements of the universe. The question becomes then, where to go, what to do, if anything.


Chapter XIV
 In the dark of the December late afternoon and charred face of the weather wilted winter landscape, the river lay black and sullen. It lay quiet, almost immobile, a blank black passage without even the stir of a chilled breeze to give it life. It lay like a great flat slick-skinned serpent between the student union and the university medical complex, sliding on a nearly level plane without urgency, dispatched not by the fierce force of headwaters, but encouraged only by the slow imperceptible pull of rotation of earth to pass unobtrusively and without breath. On either side its banks rose sharply several feet before leveling off and lifting gently to long steep knolls that in turn buttressed the pilings of a single arched footbridge.
     By five it was no longer possible to see more than several hundred feet from the bridge. The mercury lamps goose-necked from the railings over the water, and glowing in the gathering darkness, further shrouded the distant silence of water.
     Most of the afternoon Carter had been walking. His sore knee ached, and he stood now, on the bridge watching the apparition— like shapes of people passing alone and in pairs or clusters, before vanishing into the darkness. Behind him, a thousand feet or so, where the water fell over the dam, the specter sliding hidden and sullen beneath the bridge splashed and roared alive.
     He stood for a long time in the white circle from the vapor-lamps, then leaned over the rail to stare into the dark water. Several times he turned his back to the heavy, coarse balustrade, raised his eyes along the brick wall of the hospital and the long row of fifth-floor windows. He counted over seven, twice to be sure, then traced a trajectory down the wall to the sidewalk and the brick flowerboxes along the parking lot.
     From where he stood in the darkness the windows were indistinguishable, bland, regimented architectural necessities, reoccurring with monotonous regularity along the full length of the wall.
     A soft glow in the window, framed by drapes hanging open, a portal, a passage. From the window the previous night in the frenzy, the perfectly contained frenzy of dementia, Mason had taken flight to the rare and thin air of human failing—human desire stretched and frustrated and wounded—and plummeted to his death.
     Carter had not yet got it through his head. Not the facts, the desultory bits and pieces he had gathered from Ardyth on the phone, and not the character of the act, an act of a man knowing he shall not survive, putting himself, for whatever reason, in the graceless jeopardy of nature's irrefutable conditions, falling quickly, freely, the sensation of flight assaulting his senses, falling quickly and surely, seeking respite, relief from his anguish and torment.
     Carter tried to imagine a reconstructed minutiae of the image in the last seconds of the journey, seeing Mason again and again in a hospital gown, moving and fixed, at a distance, then telescoped and larger as if Carter could be both here and there, beside him, seeing Mason simultaneously from various angles moving and fixed as he approached the window, the now opened passage, raising himself, head lowered to avoid the sash, pausing in the progress of his exit, momentarily to consider something he had forgotten to remember, balanced, shifting his weight over the sill, for a brief, fixed moment, suspended before giving up what he could not recall to topple into free-flight of air and gravity, tumbling slightly, the hospital gown billowed in the eddies of air, the rush of the currents of breeze his body created roaring at his ears as he plummeted earthward.
     Ardyth had said, "John Carter, Mason Oldam is dead. I do not yet understand how he died. They have said he fell from the fifth-floor at the hospital."
     "When did it happen?" Carter asked, and when she said she did not know, he could not pursue the matter further, just then.
     "This afternoon I will make arrangements for Mason Oldam. But I will be home after six o'clock."
     Carter bowed again to the water, his elbows propped on the coarse concrete, the chill of the black winter late afternoon at his bare neck fingering the skin at the base of his skull. It had begun to snow, a steady, heavy drifting down of white through the shroud of the lamps hung over the river, a veil enveloping the river, the realization of Mason's going filling the air around him.
     "Mason Oldam is dead," Ardyth's voice repeated to him.
     "Jesus Christ," he told himself, and said "Jesus Christ," again, this time to Mason. "What did you do?"
     His words dropped dead on the chilled air, and then in the shadows, in the improbable, somber chambers of his imagination, his vision, in the deep of the night he apprehended the specter of a single, silent boat on the river, poled by a man in a long coat and black boater, the water motionless, and a passenger in white crouched in the bow, holding to the gunnels, his face grim and stained with streaks of blood and dirt, the small cleansing rivulets of tears.
     Carter ran along the bridge-rail, raised his hand, waved and tried to shout, but could not. Then he watched as the boat poled away up the river approaching the farthest bank.
     Later, sitting in the Oldam living-room Carter would tell Ardyth about his vision.
     "I saw Mason tonight," he told her, doubting his own sanity.



PHOTO DESCRIPTION AND COPYRIGHT INFO

Photo 1.
Wayne Lanter in his villa in Paris, France.  August 2013.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 2.
Helois d'Argenteuil.  (1100? – May 16, 1164).  Public Domain.

Photo 3.
Pierre Abelard.  (1079 – April 21, 1142).  Public Domain.

Photo 4.
Francois Auguste Rene Rodin (November 12, 1840 – November 17, 1917).  Public Domain.

Photo 5.
Camille Claudel in 1884 aged 19.  Public Domain.

Photo 6.
Portrait of David Hume in 1754 by Allan Ramsay.  Public Domain.

Photo 7.
Wayne writing in Paris, France.  August 2013.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 8.
Jacket cover of The Final Days.

Photo 9. 
Wayne Lanter.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 10.
Saul Bellow at the Miami Book Fair International 1990.  Public Domain.

Photo 11.
William Faulkner in 1949.  Public Domain.

Photo 12.
Wayne Lanter.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 13.
Immanuel Kant.  18th Century Painting.  Public Domain.

Photo 14.
David Hume in 1754 engraving.  Public Domain.

Photo 15.
Jean-Paul Sartre in 1950.  Public Domain.

Photo 16. 
Mary Oliver.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

Photo 17.
Mary Oliver New And Selected Poems Volume One jacket cover.

Photo 18.
Wayne Lanter.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 19.
George Bernard Shaw in 1936.  Public Domain.

Photo 20.
Photo of Paris, France.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 21.
Photo of Paris, France.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 22.
The passage to 13 rue de l'Ancienne Comedie and le Procope Restaurant.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 23.
Jacket cover of La Nausee by Jean Paul Sartre.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright law.

Photo 24.
Jacket cover of The Stranger by Albert Camus.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

Photo 25.
Albert Camus.  This photograph is a work for hire created prior to 1968 by a staff photographer at New York World-Telegram & Sun. It is part of a collection donated to the Library of Congress. Per the deed of gift, New York World-Telegram & Sun dedicated to the public all rights it held for the photographs in this collection upon its donation to the Library. Thus, there are no known restrictions on the usage of this photograph.

Photo 26.
Jacket cover of The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

Photo 27.
Ernest Hemingway in 1939.  Public Domain.

Photo 28.
Jacket cover of Defending The Citadel by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 29.
Clock

Photo 30.
Jacket cover of The Final Days by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 31.
Wayne Lanter.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 32.
Yellow tablets and bic pens.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 33.
Wayne Lanter’s yellow writing tablet.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 34.
Rake against house.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 35.
Jacket cover of A Float on the Ohtagawa by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 36.
Wayne’s Paris window looking out into the courtyard.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 37.
Lanter reading -seated on Flaubert's cenotaph in Jardin du Luxembourg.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.  

Photo 38.
Photo of Vance Bourjaily from inside jacket cover of The End of My Life.  

Photo 39.
Ernest Hemingway in 1958.  Public Domain.

Photo 40.
Yellow tablets and bic pens.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 41.
Lanter at Place Jean-Paul Sartre et Simone de Beauvoir in front of the Les Deux  Magots restaurant where many of the literary crowd, including Hemingway, hung out.

Photo 42.
William Faulkner in December 1954.  Photo by Carl Van Vechten.  Public Domain.

Photo 43.
Yellow tablets and bic pens.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 44.
Wayne Lanter in Paris.  Copyright by Wayne Lanter.

Photo 45.
David Berkowitz.  Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law.

Photo 46.
Wayne Lanter in Paris.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.

Photo 47.
Jacket cover of The Final Days, first edition.   

Photo 48.
Jacket cover of The Final Days, second edition.

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