Publication Day– The Alexandrite (Brain Damage)
After Pink Floyd recorded “Dark Side of the Moon,” Roger Waters, who did vocals, played bass guitar, and wrote the lyrics, took a reel-to-reel copy home and played it for his wife. He was understandably, after an unusually long time working on an album, very close to it—probably too close, he imagined, to have any objectivity left.The album originally consisted of two sides, nine cuts. Each side was a continuous piece of music. For awhile, the title was “Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics.” The day Waters brought the tapes home to play for his wife, he sat next to her, but not watching her as she listened to the entire album.
When it was over, he got up, switched off the tape machine, turned back to her and saw that her face was covered with tears.
The album went on to sell over 250 million copies worldwide.
Meanwhile, five or six years after that album’s release, in my tiny, and at the time, crashing life—two divorces behind me, living in a garret apartment so shabbily constructed the building would have to be torn down after the Northridge earthquake (the quake left it resembling a three-dimensional parallelogram), I was alone, listening to “Dark Side of the Moon,” and drinking myself to sleep.
I’d had several years of psychotherapy, but it obviously hadn’t done the job. I’d been semi-well-known for awhile as an actor. In fact, the next to last “cut” of “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Brain Damage” was about, according to Wikipedia, “a mental illness that results from the elevation of fame and success above the needs of the self.”
That was too simplistic for me; I was crazy for a wider variety of reasons than just dealing with the ups and downs of show business. What I was, was a self-absorbed figment of my own imagination, slipping down the backside of the medium sized hill of my career, every bit of confidence I ever had withering away like the Los Angeles water supply. I even considered suicide, except that I had three children I loved. That was the only redeeming feature I could think of about myself; I loved my kids. Otherwise, I was a man in a mask, unsure of anything except that, as the song said to me over and over, “the lunatic is in my head.”
I was writing a lot at the time. In the afternoons before the urge to get blind drunk overwhelmed me, I made various stabs at plays, screenplays and novels. One story I wrote had to do with someone who has lived another life, and that other person was totally different from the first one, but not in a way I could understand. He was just this… stranger. I was inside a stranger (it was a first person piece), trying to figure out not only whose body I was inhabiting, but who this “I” was in the first place, yo-yo-ing back and forth between my insane artiste’s constructions and unconsciousness.
I guess this became my first faltering version of “The Alexandrite.”
As you can imagine, no one wanted to buy it, represent it, or even read it.
Going back to my little apartment and my first attempts to write the story for “The Alexandrite,” the novel that’s been released today, I got more therapy. I finally became sane enough to even consider having another relationship.
I did. I had a few.
I failed at all of them.
Then I met Linda.
Linda is my third wife. We’ve been married for thirty-three years. She is an exceptional person; only someone exceptional could have put up with those first years of living with me.
Finally, I allowed her to train me a little, like house-breaking an untamed mid-life dog you come across at the pound, feel sorry for, and for motives only unwavering dog lovers can understand, decide to bring home and make him a member of your family. That was me—a mongrel with a thousand bad habits, but which, for reasons nobody else can understand, becomes beloved by its owner.
Finally, after twenty-some (+) years of working on it on-and-off, and growing up a little more, I finished the book. I think I got it right. It may not become the all-time best seller I’m dreaming of. It’s kind of a peculiar book, and I’m sure not to everyone’s taste. It’s part literary fiction, part magical realism, part historical fiction, part Hollywood fantasy. And I don’t think it will be everyone’s cup of tea.
But Linda loves it and I trust her completely (she has absolutely no gift for lying).
If the Alexandrite is successful, it’s for three reasons: I had the great blessing of falling apart at the seams, but not dying. I met Linda. And finally, I learned—or I should say I’m learning—to put myself in the hands of whatever that Universal Force of Goodness, that part of us that wants us to be happy and succeed and that knows, really KNOWS, that we are all in this together.
Back to “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “Brain Damage,” “The Alexandrite” is about a man who is literally joined with another self, in another body, in another time. And there is literally someone in his head—but it’s not him.
As the party of the first part (in the story) comes to understand he’s living inside the party of the second part… or vice-versa, it’s not so easy to tell, his initial instinct—as with every other nightmare in his life—is, desperately, to try to wake up and prevent them both from losing everything, like especially their lives.
The book features a hero who, among other things, has to figure out who all’s inside him, what they’re doing there, and what their relationships are to each other. For awhile, he comes to believe he actually hates this other part, or these other parts of himself, as I did a lifetime ago. The “others,” he believes, have to be lunatics just as he always “knew” they were, just as he always “knew” he was.
It comes then as the most surprising lesson of his life when he learns:
“I cannot go without you for you are a part of me.”