Joseph Conrad, a fellow not unlike Luc Dubois, adopted the practice of writing prefaces to his novels. I have often wished other writers would do the same. A preface allows the reader to understand the motivation of the writer and otherwise gives the reader the context in which the novel was conceived and provides, in some cases, the methodology. Hence, this preface.
Novel? Not exactly. This is a biography of Luc Dubois but, if you decide to continue, you will find that it has many artifices that are found in novels. Moreover, I will embellish on occasion, but only to underscore the facts of Luc as I understand them. As Ken Kesey wrote, “It’s true, even if it didn’t happen that way.” In short, what follows will be wholly impressionistic, just dabs of paint that might turn out to be a portrait.
So then, why did I decide to write this? I came across Our Picaresque Hero in a biggish small country called “The Netherlands” in a biggish small town called “Maastricht”, a strange place and strange things happen while I was there. It was, as William James wrote about the abnormal, “…the normal writ large” (“Varieties of Religious Experiences”)
I have known Luc for just about 20 years and I find him to be the most extraordinary personality I have come across. He is one of the brightest men I have ever known, but he refuses to act as brilliance conventionally demands or, in some unfortunate cases, sadly enforces. He has neither the caution that characterizes one sort of genius nor the carelessness that characterizes the other. There is also an eerie goodness about him that eludes my grasp or, I should write, eludes my grasp at the date of this preface. It also annoys me somewhat. Maybe he’s hiding something. He could be. He might be hiding something.
“Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption. He goes from the filth of the diaper to the stench of the shroud. There’s always something!” (“All the King’s Men” – William Penn Warren)
Perhaps I’ll discover what, if anything, he’s hiding as I wade back along through the sewer of my consciousness.
Pardon me. I forgot to introduce myself. You should know a bit about me, as I am a prism through which you will see a (note the indefinite article) spectrum of Luc Henri Dubois. I’m an American fellow of humble, well-bred, largely Irish Catholic descent, though I have backslid into the sinful life of a wastrel, spending most of my time “scribbling and bibbling.” I, alone, am to blame for the state into which I have fallen. (N.B. It is really a great deal more fun listening to music, reading, and getting drunk and laid than attending Mass). I am a Washington, D.C. (USA) homeboy, born and raised. I am a loner, a monk really, cruising his 50th birthday (the coming Hiroshima Day). In the space next to “Occupation” on my tax forms, I write, in block letters, “FAILURE”. You will find out how I tripped over Dubois if you decide to go on. You will find more than you probably want to know about me as well, but I can’t get on with this business in any other manner.
Again, why did I decide to write this? Partly because I have a terrible memory, by which I mean I remember everything. Trust me, I make Proust seem like an unranked amateur with respect to memory. Memory is a bag of weights. One must empty the bag or one is stuck with lugging it up the hill to the cemetery. There is this strange piece of wood amongst the weights in my bag.
Those are my motivations and, by the way, in brief, the context. So then, what is my methodology?
To the dull logistical business first: I intend to write this in installments on this web site. I intend to meet my deadlines, like any other good 19th Century [sic] writer. If Luc agrees, once I have exhausted my resources, I’ll query him on his past. Throughout, I’ll allow him to make comments within the text, which will be flagged as such. I’ll allow him to clarify, to obfuscate, to lie outright. In short, to defend himself.
To the core of the methodology: As you may have guessed, it is strictly memory, though I will occasionally consult a dictionary and letters Luc and I have exchanged. A dangerous tool is memory. I’ll tell you a joke about memory. A philosopher name of Wittgenstein came up with it. This fellow wakes up one morning and picks up the newspaper to find that a building he owned has burned to the ground. He wants to check out the accuracy of the story. So, what does he do? He goes out and buys another copy of the newspaper.
Read on. If nothing else, I hope to amuse you. Trust me.
“Trust me,” said the American.
See? I’ve already amused you.