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Georgia on my mind

January 22, 2012

Could be a big weekend coming up. Jeff Mangum has a couple dates at the Lincoln Theatre, a gorgeous concert hall in northwest DC. I’m guessing photography will be prohibited again, but use your imagination:

Just picture a beflanneled man with a guitar in the middle of the stage. I have no idea where my tickets for Saturday night put me, and I’m guest listed for Friday, so I don’t totally know what my view will be (though I’m not ashamed to admit I’m thankful for a seated venue — my feet were killing me after the third act of a show last night I watched while standing on unforgiving linoleum). But it should be a terrific show. The Music Tapes are opening both nights, and having seen them three times int he last few months (and Mangum twice in the same span), I’m not sure what else I can say before the show that I haven’t said already, but I’m hoping for some news this weekend. That’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Somehow, I’m already looking past it a bit, to late February. I’m planning a road trip down to Athens (and possibly to Lexington) to tie up whatever loose ends I can down there (plus also eat delicious food). I’m fixing to head down somewhere around February 19 or 20, give or take a day or two, and spend about a week or so down there. I might have company, but I might now. But I definitely have less than a month to prepare.

Which is plenty of time. It’s actually way too early to start setting up interviews now. With most of the folks I plan to talk to, trying to set something up more than a few days in advance would be a fool’s errand; four whole weeks is, in most cases, impossible. I might have a few specific times set in stone before I get down there, but mostly I plan to just let everyone know I’ll be around and then figure it out as I go. Perhaps this makes me sound a bit naive or green, but it’s just the opposite. I’ve learned many times over exactly how these things work with the Elephant 6 folks.

What I do need to get done is figure out what I’m still missing, and then decide who I need to talk to and what I need to ask them. There’s a handful of people I still need to talk to just generally (folks I’ve interviewed either not at all or only briefly), but there are also people I’ve talked to a ton (too many to name) who can fill in some blanks and connect some dots. I just need to decide which blanks need to be filled and which dots need to be connected.

So my job now is to read every single word I have. In most cases, I heard each word once when it was spoken originally, once when I transcribed it, and once more when I outlined it, and then I probably came across it at one or another point in the process, at least. But I’ve never actually read the full corpus all at once, sequentially, as a single gestalt. There’s a few significant things to look for.

As anyone who has spent any significant amount of time around me these past few years can attest, I can recite from memory countless E6 anecdotes germane to any subject. But unfortunately, a sizable portion of those stories was shared with me off the record or on background, and so there’s a lot in my brain that, for one reason another, has to this point been omitted from the working manuscript. When I notice gulfs like that, I need to make a note to myself to find a way to get it on the record.

Another important thing to look for is contradictions. By design, I’ve talked to an awful lot of people for this project. The whole point was that no individual’s memory is ever infallible, which is a fact that’s highlighted when folks start sharing their personal resumés of hallucinogenic drug use. So my goal was to cross-reference everything I could in the hopes that I could corroborate whatever I could. I’ve practically given up on pinning down hard dates for most events, but there are some basic facts on which there seems to be some disagreement. So anywhere I see some sort of contradiction, I need to make a note and see if I can find someone to help resolve it. On a similar note, anywhere I find something dubious with only one source, I need to see if I can find anyone to back it up.

Lastly, I’m certain I’ll see some gaps in the narrative. Not this has to be a smooth linear thing (nor that it even could), but I’m sure I’ll see some holes I can fill. For the first two priorities, I have to look at things as a journalist, but for this one, I get to view what I have so far through the lens of the Literary Giant I hope to one day become. Which is neat.

So I’ve got my work cut out for me, and for maybe the first time, I have an actual timeline to get it done. If I haven’t figured it out by mid-February, it will render my Athens trip almost pointless (in terms of this book, at least–my belly will be thankful regardless). What I have so far is not a finished product by any means, but purely in terms of length, it’s a full ass book, and the lack of polish will surely make it more difficult to digest. I’ve read books of this length in much shorter periods of time, but reading a book on a laptop screen makes it an awful lot harder (and way less portable), and I have no interest in printing it all out. I might have to exercise some discipline here for like the first time ever.

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