3619– Tuesday, June 4, 2019 – Eddy, The Gonzo Journalist

Eddy is the bad boy of the Library Guys.  Adored by his conservative readers and vilified by liberals far and wide in both Polk and Burnett County.  Eddy (Rumors have it that he is related to the late Ralph Waldo Emerson) moved to Trade Lake amidst a hail of stories concerning some nefarious goings on in St. Croix Falls where Eddy was town administrator.  Some say he was ridden out of town on a rail while others say he tired of the big city (St. Croix Falls?) and decided to live the life of a hermit in Trade Lake.  Eddy bought and moved into a small cabin sans hot water or indoor plumbing.  Perhaps worse than the lack of these amenities is the fact that he has no internet or TV.  Nevertheless, you will never find a subject that Eddy is uninformed on.  He might be misinformed but never uninformed.

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Eddy was living a fairly quiet life in his cabin until he decided to take a position on our local paper as a roving reporter.  Eddy covers many different topics and events happening in and around both Polk and Burnett Counties.  This is when he started to get into trouble with the liberals.  Eddy has a propensity to mix literature, personal opinion and journalism.  I would guess that not coming from a bona fide school of journalism, Eddy treats many of his subjects with what some call a Gonzo Journalism approach.  When the reader agrees with Eddy’s point of view, Eddy is beloved.  However, all hell breaks lose when the reader disagrees with Eddy’s perspective.  Eddy has probably broken the record here in Frederic for the greatest number of readers writing in to cancel their subscription or to demand Eddy be removed from the paper or often both.  One reader demanding that Eddie be removed coined the term “Eddyfied” to refer to what she called Ed’s bias in reporting topics.

From a personality or psychological framework, Eddy is hard to pin down.  He can be funny, serious, solemn, moody, cantankerous, obnoxious and irritating but he is never boring.  He is actually quite interesting and charming unless you get into a deep discussion with him.  Going deeper you may run into some of what I call his “bizarre” ideas.  I suppose what Eddy and I usually differ on is, well most things!  Eddy (perhaps just to be a contrarian) generally has a perspective quite different from mine.  In 2016, I lost a one hundred dollar bet with him on who would be the next president.  He picked Thump and I picked Hillary.  I am still trying to win my money back, perhaps by betting that Trump will be impeached.  I suspect Eddy would say I have a left-wing liberal bias, which I am almost 100 percent certain is false. 😊

A blog about Eddy would be incomplete without at least one example of his writing.  A number of years ago when the meth problem up here was growing, Eddy did a first-person series of interviews with some meth addicts.  In my opinion, had it not been written in a small-town newspaper, it would have been noticed for a Pulitzer Prize nomination.  It was informative, inspired, heart rending and touching.  It was something that could only have been written by blending the subjective with the objective.  Eddy was at his best with this piece.

I think there is a role for the subjective perspective in news reporting.  We are all inundated with stories of fake news as well as the admonition to find the truth.  The problem is that we all grow up with this idea that an objective truth exists out there and that all we have to do is find it.  Give us a light like Diogenes had and we are positive that we can find the truth.  I now realize that the truth is a myth.  No objective truth exists.  This is my truth.  My “truth” will not make too many people happy.  A reporter (if they want to keep their job) has to be careful to balance the “truth” and somehow keep his/her theories from dominating the framework.  There are too many people on either side of the “objective” truth who will draw and quarter you for not telling the truth as they want to see it.

Eddy will keep on truckin and where he ends up, I am sure only Eddie knows.

Eddy, please don’t Eddyfy me!  I really didn’t mean everything I said here. 

“What sells, today, is whatever Fucks You Up – whatever short-circuits your brain and grounds it out for the longest possible time.”  — Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The Best Writing Club in the USA!

author-at-work-1170x716Big News!  They are going to make a movie about a writer’s club.  They made the movie “The Book Club” staring a host of elderly semi-retired actresses and now they want to make a movie about a writer’s club.  I am volunteering our club.  It is the best writing club in the USA with so many talented writers.

“Poppycock” you say!  “There are hundreds of writing clubs across this country and there are more talented writers than there are spaces on the Times Best Seller list. What makes your writing club the best?”

“Thank you for asking.”

Well for one, our club has the greatest teacher in the entire world.  She is a retired Professor Emeritus (Whatever that means) and you would never (even if you looked high and low) find a better writing teacher.  I will say more about our instructor later and why she is so great.

Now you may not know too much about a writing club or then again, you may think you know a lot.  Perhaps you think you know why someone would join a writing club.  If you are a non-writer, the usual reasons that come to mind are:  Fame, fortune and the power to influence thinking.  These are certainly lofty goals and one that anyone might be forgiven for believing worth pursuing.  They are not our reasons though.  We meet for two hours every week during the best weeks of the year in the mid-west to share our stories and to listen to the stories of others. Our goals are not so egotistical or grandiose as fame and fortune.

What makes a great writing club besides a great instructor?  You could define a writing club by its demographics.  Ours is primarily comprised of elderly retired folks of mixed German and Nordic backgrounds.  Women outnumber men in our club by a three to one ratio.  We are middle class people with about fifty percent of us having a college education.

A more interesting way to define a club is by its type of writers.  I believe we are unique in this area.  Why are we unique?  The answer is simple.  Most of us are too old to give a damn about fame and fortune.  We will probably not live long enough to enjoy any new-found wealth or fame anyway.   Our average age is probably close to 75.

There are three types of writers in our club.  We have nostalgia writers, fiction writers and persuasive writers.  I put myself in the last category.

Nostalgia writers in our club often write stories about memories and friends and relatives that are long gone.  It might be stories about growing up on the farm.  It might be stories about life in the St. Croix valley.  It might be stories about the old school days when there were one room school houses.

Nostalgia writers love to share their bygone days with younger relatives and other people.  The times and days they write about might not interest too many people, but there is little worry about that.  A writer writes for themselves often more than other people.  The accuracy of their memories might also be tainted with the passage of time but often these memories are so funny and colorful that no one in our club really cares about how accurate they are.  Maybe the story happened in 1957 or maybe it was 1947, it really does not make any difference to those of us listening.

The fiction writers in our club delight in telling involved and esoteric stories about themes that came out of their fantasies or some whimsical vision they had.  However, our fiction writers are no starry-eyed idealists.  They are under no illusions that they will make the best sellers list with their stories.  They are also not motivated by fame and fortune.  We have tales of frogs, sheep, goats, aliens and humans who have adventures that you could only dream about.

In the six or so years, that I have belonged to the club, I have heard many fabulous stories of people, animals and events that were totally imaginary.  Sometimes, Carolyn our instructor will give us an assignment like writing about a cow in Norway that prompts our creative powers.  The results are stories written not for the best seller list but to exercise our brains and to employ our imaginations.  Most of these stories will never find their way into publication (excepting our fabulous local paper which weekly features the writings of various club members).  We do not get paid for getting published, but we are more than happy to share our stories with a wider audience.  There may be a Hemingway or J. K Rowling in our club, but no one puts on airs or has pretensions of grandeur.  We leave it up to the Gods to decide who will become immortal.

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I should tell you about the final group of writers but first, before I forget (It happens quite frequently with age) I want to tell you about Professor Carolyn Wedin, our writing instructor.

Now the typical idea of an English teacher sends shivers down most anyone’s spine who has ever been in school.  Grammar, punctuation, spelling and syntax are enough to make the hardiest soul give up the idea of becoming a writer.  But even worse are critiques such as: “That is shoddy writing, that is the poorest piece of writing I have ever seen or where did you steal those ideas from.”  Destructive comments such as these happen often enough in school to make any normal person hate English and writing.

Carolyn has the unbelievable ability to encourage all of us to keep writing.  She makes each of us think that we are wonderful writers.  She motivates us to be better writers with gentle ideas and suggestions rather than harsh criticism or comparing our work to others.  She seldom ever worries about syntax, grammar, spelling and punctuation.  I have often sat and listened to what I thought was a horrible piece of writing only to hear Carolyn provide ideas for improvement and say little or nothing that would smack of condemnation or disapproval.  I marvel at her patience and endurance and compassion. In the end, Dr. Wedin is teaching us not only to be better writers but also to be better people.  Judge not others less ye be judged yourself.

So now we come to the final and last category of writers in our club.  It is the category I put myself in.  These are the writers who write to persuade others.  The people who think that something they say can make a difference in the world.  We want to change the hearts and minds of people.

Speaking for myself, I write social and political satire with the goal of helping other people to better see and understand the foibles that our culture often pursues.  You may think this is a narcissistic goal or perhaps a naive goal and maybe it is.  One thing is certain.  It will never garner me fame or fortune.   But (you should know by now) that is not why we write.

As any writer will tell you (Paraphrasing the great French National Anthem):

Writers! Form your battalions!

Write On! Write On! Write On!  Write_On_logo

Time for Questions: 

Do you write?  Why not?  Have you ever tried writing?  Would you like to be a famous published writer?  It all starts with your first sentence.

Life is just beginning.

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”  — Madeleine L’Engle

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