"The Great American Novel, A Memoir" is a novel disguised as a memoir, a memoir disguised as a novel.
A life, stripped down to its essence. Thomas Wolfe, aping Charles Bukowski. A short story of a long story. 80 years.
The bet that the author's life is more interesting than fiction.
"What if" always inferior to what actually happened.
The author believes: "If you find and tell the truth, the real truth, the meaning of life, they will love you."
All of his life he sacrificed relationships, money, everything, for the dream. "All the little and large failures, accidents, tragedies, and embarrassments in my life were worth it. For the material! Nothing goes to waste. Damnable times far more valuable than sweet times."
Always a soul scavenger. In times of danger and tragedy, he poured through his tortured remains, searching greedily for universal tidbits, insights, he could pass on, and thus be immortal.
The dangerous 74,000 miles of hitchhiking, the multitude of jobs, Salesman, Detective, Boss of 73 appraisers, Teacher, Analyzer of German prisoner of war reports, Skid-row hotel clerk, Racetrack gambler, Intimacy with nine dozen women, Intelligence Russian expert when U.S. planes invaded Russian airspace, Appraiser of all San Francisco skyscrapers (scandalously exposed as under-assessed), Enjoyer of indoor and outdoor whores in
Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Athens, on the Nile at full tide in Cairo, and the favors of the French sales lady who picked him up hitchhiking on the Riviera. Going with seven women simultaneously in the personal ads.
Most important, he reported his life fully, all of his life. Searched for meaning in the tragedies, murder, suicides, kidnap/rape, schizophrenia, insane asylum... Having lost his own father at age three, he attempted desperately to be a perfect father, protect his children, always be there for them.
His life dream/obsession -- to find meaning by steadfastly reporting his life -- made him happy, all his life.
At the end, his dear friend, Rosie, told him, "You are the happiest man I know."
Writing in “Burger King” and “Nations” and “The Happy Donut “Shop,” people asked him what he was doing.
"Writing the Great American Novel," he said, grinning.
Huge boxes of journals, letters, photos, were piled on the table and beside him in the booth. He ate fast food all day, all evening, worked through two shifts of employees who loved him, gave him extra portions of the deadly food.
982,000 words written, 10 hours a day, seven days a week, 3600 hours a year, seven novels. Now put into one book, the essence, "The Great American Novel, a Memoir."
One night after the day's work, he wrote a note, musing, to himself:
"My true soul, I have saved for my readers. Somewhere there will be a reader. Someday, someone will read the things I write, will love the person I am.
"What a strange world to write these things, night after night, never knowing if anyone will read them.
"But whoever does will get a straight heart, pure communication. Something I've never been able to do in person. Not with ex-wives, girlfriends, my mother, even my children.
"I know no one is out there, but have to pretend there is one dear soul, who cares, who listens, who nods approval.
"A happy ending to real life."