Monday, June 14, 2010

Maria: Postscript -- and Prologue

The Maria Chroncicles, #59

This post marks the completion of a phase in an ongoing project. Eighteen months ago, I launched this blog as one means of trying to make a systematic exploration of new media and what it might mean for a person who considers himself a life-long writer. This was a foray in terms of form, but it was also a foray in terms of content. I wanted to write about the life of a teacher, and do so in a way that I haven't typically seen in my admittedly limited encounters with the literature of professional education. I began with "the Felix Chronicles," still available on this blog, in which I wrote about myself in the first person, changing details about students and colleagues in order to protect their identities. I perhaps should have realized that this would prove to be problematic. So I instead wandered into the realm of fiction, imagining a character who no one would mistake for me: a divorced 49-year old Chicana woman looking to start her life over at an institution somewhere in metropolitan New York that I named Hudson High School.

Fairly early on in the process, Maria began to take on a life of her own. I created a cast of characters who appear throughout, but found myself conjuring up new people, notably Jack Casey, the substitute teacher with whom Maria develops a relationship. Many of the events that transpire emerged organically; I didn't really know what was going to happen until I found myself imagining it. The posts that went up, once or twice a week, were typically written in batches.

This sense of the story taking a life of its own also applied to my sense that it was going to end of its own accord. At some point, I realized that I had said pretty much what I wanted to, and that the narrative was reaching a cadence. That I had, in effect, written a novel -- admittedly not much of one, and one in which professional issues tended to be foregrounded more than issues of narrative energy or character development. But that I'd nevertheless produced something that has a real shape, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. My guess is that there's no one who has actually read the Maria Chronicles in exactly this way, nor is there likely to be. But it's there for anyone who wants it, and the individual pieces have their own shape and integrity for those who have, or wish, to graze. This, it seems to me, is one of the really nice things about our contemporary media order: that an individual can make something and present it for anyone who wants to see without the economic, technological, and social barriers that might have prevented it in the past. To be sure, the potential reach of such a document is limited. But it remains part of my democratic faith that modest efforts by ordinary people can nevertheless produce results that someone, somewhere, at some point, might find of value. My sincere thanks to anyone who has taken the time to have a look. And I invite any and all to circle back again to the fifty-nine moments of what constitute a metaphorical hour in the life of a woman that I, at least, am very glad that I got to know.

Jim Cullen
New York, NY
June, 2010