Our Most Recent Book: Bob Woodley’s Cry to Dream Again

November 18th, 2010

Our most recent publication is Bob Woodley’s novel Cry to Dream Again, which he submitted as thesis for his Master’s degree at the University of Kansas in 1962.  I first knew Bob at KU at this time.  I had gotten my own MA a year or two earlier, and was finishing course work for the PhD.   Bob, as an undergraduate student at Washburn University, in Topeka, had been a champion debater as an undergraduate, and was teaching in the English Department there in addition to his graduate work at KU.  He told me about an opening in the English Department at Washburn, helped me get the job, helped me move to Topeka, then was my office mate for 13 years (and, I say, was the best friend of my life), until he died in the summer of 1976, while I was in Japan—34 years ago.



Cry to Dream Again is an accurate historical novel, based on Bob’s experience as a medic in an 80-man American army unit that operated a radio station in the high land above Asmara, the capital of Eritrea.  Most of the action is set in Eritrea, a small country with a full coastline along the Red Sea.  We put the full map of Africa on the front cover (to establish where Eritrea is), along with an image of a kudu against the sunset, since that was the game animal Al hunted in Chapter 5, and a weapons carrier with a winch, the Americans’ primary transportation in exploring this unexplored country, and the map of Eritrea on the back cover to locate the places they go to.  Eritrea was British a protectorate at the time, since the British had taken the country from the Italians at the end of WWII, and their military protect the Americans from the bandits who roam the hills.  The Italians had established farms and businesses there, while they controlled the country, and many still lived there, particularly in the capital (it is their hospital that the Americans must turn to for serious medical assistance).  Bob was quite familiar with all of this.

But this is also a well structured novel, about how the two officers and two non-coms who go hunting up north and exploring down south together, affect each others lives, and how the young Italian woman they all come to know affects all of them.

I knew that Bob’s novel was very readable, and had expected him to publish it sooner or later, but he never published more than the three copies of the novel prepared as his Master’s thesis, except for chapter five of the novel, a natural short story on Hunting Kudu in East Africa, which he published in Washburn’s student magazine, Hemlock, in the late 60’s and which I have had on my web site, as a sample of his writing, since early in 2000.  When I read the whole novel again, I was even more impressed by it, and decided to get it published this year, as part of the 30th anniversary of the Woodley Press.  I thought, “If not me, who?”  And, “If not now, when?”   There was the problem of preparing a 48-year-old manually typed thesis for publication as a book comparable in format and type font to my own The Bridge of Dreams; it was possible to scan the book, page by page, from the thesis copy into that format and type font I had used for my novel, but there were as many as forty-some obvious errors in that per page, so I spent a full 40-hour week making the changes that would make it readable copy for a reader, and then proofread that copy against the thesis copy to make sure that when I had to guess at what the original said, I hadn’t guessed wrong .

I expected to publish his novel as a Woodley Press book, but when it began to look like it was not possible to get it approved for this year (or perhaps at all), I decided to publish it, in late October, as the first book to be published by The Cider Press, which had just been incorporated in Oregon in July by my brother Russell (the  General Editor who lives in Sweet Home, Oregon), to publish two other books we were planning.   So that is what we did.

Kudos

A Novel by Robert N. Lawson

January 20th, 2010

The bridge of dreams–the phrase reverberates–

Suggesting flights of spirit, or of mind,
Transcending all that’s physical, that waits,
Along with poor mortality, behind.
To pass beyond the sense of time and place,
To find pure Being in infinity,
To contemplate the Godhead, see the face
Of all that’s faceless, all we cannot see,
Become as one with nothing, and with all,
Embracing past and future in a breath.
And if the world you left behind should call,
Respond with cosmic laughter, saying, “Death,
You have no power over me, it seems,
For I’ve escaped. I’ve crossed the bridge of dreams.”

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Background music (c) Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Robert Lawson’s Bridge of Dreams is a companion volume to his earlier book of sonnets. Each of the novel’s chapters opens with an original sonnet and a title referring to a well-known work of  literature, classical to modern. Covering a wide range of emotional, geographic and chronological territory, the novel traces the early and mid-life history of Jack, the ever-observant narrator, as his life is impacted by the powerful women who enter it.

The novel in its entirety is a celebration of culture and the richness of the interaction between the individual spirit and the artifacts of culture. Each chapter finds its themes framed, identified, altered and sometimes ironically commented upon by the plays and stories integrated into the plot. For instance, Betty – a student of Jack’s – first come to his attention, and ours, in the play Pygmalion, when it seems for a short while that Jack may be able to direct and shape Betty’s life to his liking.

The novel presents a mural of American life in the rich middle years of the American century, from 1955 to 1975. It is an accurate and evocative re-viewing of the several jarring eras that were compacted into that time frame.

Reviews





Doug Goheen: Readers well-versed in American, European, and Japanese literature will appreciate the numerous allusions throughout.



Kudos