Two Sides of the Same Coin
(an Introduction to Ticket to Ride)
The Broad Strokes
by philip scott wikel
Growing up in the 70s, and having semi-hippies for parents, I heard a lot of talk about positive change. There was something in the air back then, what with the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Consciousness Movement, Women’s Liberation, Vietnam War protests, the Back to Nature Movement, the “success” of Woodstock, the environmental movement, America’s Bicentennial, and the American Indian Movement; it seemed that everything was changing for the better. And while I realize many got lost in the “Me-decade” aspect of the 70s and the pseudo-sexual revolution, in the final analysis, and from a kid’s point-of-view, it felt as if the world was beginning anew and that the average American was embracing, and looking forward to, greater freedom and a world redefined. I was so naive, in the best possible sense of being so, that I believed the whole world was joining together to ensure that the future would be full of all that our nation’s forefathers had set out to create; a land of free-thinking, loving, and idealistic people. I believed in all of this, even in spite of Watergate, the Gas Crisis, the Kent State Massacre, the instability of the Middle East and the terrorism at the 1972 Olympics.
In Ticket to Ride I have attempted to sort through the good and the bad of the 70s and to create characters who embody both sides of that time; not unlike a Bicentennial coin with Independence Hall on one side and a forward looking George Washington, or a thoughtful JFK, on the other. While I realize this might be a grandiose claim, I see my two protagonists as representative of America. Livy Tinsley, for me, embodies the positive side; free-thinking, confident, passionate and driven. Morgan Blake and his father William on the other hand, represent mostly what I see as needing to be changed. While Morgan does share some of Livy’s characteristics, his dysfunctional upbringing leads him to a number of pitfalls. And it is only through his exorcism in psychotherapy that he is ready to break the negative cycle of his past, grab the proverbial mantle and forge ahead to a better version of himself. It is within this transformation that Morgan must decide what to keep that is good in himself and what must be left behind. The child in me smiles when I think of what he, and we, may still become.
I must say I make no claim at being a cultural anthropologist, or an iconoclast, for that matter. I’m just a guy who believes there is still in all of us a wish for greater goodness and a greater good for our fellow man or woman. Many still believe, as the Beatles once sung, “All We Need Is Love” to make a difference in America and in the world. While I believe love figures in on a grand scale, I also feel it’s going to take an awfully lot of internal reflection and soul-searching to bring us to a true understanding of today’s global community. It may only be through quiet introspection, and self reflection that we can all find in ourselves the best “us” possible. Again I must say, in Ticket to Ride I make no claim to have made a comprehensive study of the 70s and America but I would like to think that my characters represent, mostly figuratively, and have grasped literally, some of the broader aspects of the time.
The Nuts and Bolts
This part is a tough one because my manager in New York suggested I open the book with a chapter about Livy Tinsley, the female protagonist in Ticket to Ride. That’s all well and good, ladies first and all, but it seems to put off my potential male readers. The book opens with a heavy sense that this is a romance novel though the book itself is not specifically a romance.
All I can say to that is, hang in there guys, as Morgan Blake’s first chapter follows this prologue and in it we can get on with some serious “guy stuff.”
A comment that has been repeated a few times about the Prologue is that Livy is depicted as being too intelligent for a 10-year-old. To that I say, nonsense, the character was modeled after a real, nine-year-old girl from England, my ex-girlfriend’s little sister. While I believe her to be an exceptional person, and therefore a wonderful example of what a child can be, it may very well be that she is, sadly, not the norm for a girl her age.
Another comment has been made that my opening sentence is too long. For that, I offer no apology, but that I love the English language and enjoy using it to its fullest. Is this a brag? I say no. I believe we should all strive to use our language the best way we can. With the advent of email and social networks, English is suffering under the influence of abbreviations that cause English users to abbreviate themselves to the point of non-existence. “Use your words” say the preschool and kindergarten teachers and I agree. Express yourself to the fullest. Make your thoughts known. Use big sentences to do so and don’t worry that people are in too big a hurry to listen. You’ll find your audience eventually.
Ticket to Ride is, at times, a very self-consciously literary novel. For better or for worse and, as such, it is sometimes much more writerly than it is readerly. For some this will be a welcome challenge. For others, it may be a distraction. And still for others (probably most) it won’t matter.
The first 2 chapters of Ticket to Ride are consciously written in an “antiquated” style for three reasons. The first is to attempt to show a depth of the English language of the past, the second, to attempt to raise the commonplace to a loftier height, and thirdly, to attempt to point out the movement away from ornamental language and into the more utilitarian writing that is now demanded of writers by their readers.
So without further ado (mostly about nothing), here is my coming-of-age novel. You will ride along with Livy and Morgan as they wend their way through life and, though the period in which they live is the 70s, I believe their struggles are as timeless as the story of Odysseus.
Click here for: Ticket to Ride on Amazon