Notes for "Euclid Alone"
I had two notions. The first was to write the autobiography in many threads. I would take as many aspects of my life as interested me and write about them in some loose chronological order. Instead of my whole life from birth to the present, there would be threads about my developing personal philosophy, my relationships with girlfriends and wives, my experiences as a writer, my on-going vocational crises, my interest in sports, etc.
The second notion was that the whole should be written as hypertext, with links which could, for example, allow a reader to follow my life chronologically, to see what my parents had to write about various events that I was writing about, etc.
About two years ago, I came across a quotation that gave me a further idea:
I hit upon the right way to do an Autobiography: start it at no particular time of your life; wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment; drop it the moment its interest threatens to pale; and turn your talk upon the new and more interesting thing that has intruded itself into your mind meantime.
-- Mark Twain.
I found this in Mark Twain: A Biography by Albert Bigelow Paine and immediately noted that Paine did not follow this scheme. Although he was working from dictation from Twain that did wander in that exact way, Paine put it all into chronological order. He judged, and I think that he was somewhat correct, that this "wandering free" was not the way that someone would want to read it.
But it made me think that my approach to writing about aspects was unnecessary. Write it the way Twain suggested and then use hypertext linking to assemble even those aspects.
Of course, producing the autobiography as a book would be clumsy. My current idea is that it will be present on a CD along with a browser that allows readers to follow it any number of ways: aspect by aspect, chronological, in the order that pieces were written, etc. (It may sound morbid, but I intend to have this CD (or DVD or whatever) distributed at my funeral -- sort of a door prize.)
"Euclid Alone" is intended as a bit of that autobiography. It would be found on several threads and would itself link to other pieces and to threads.
Sample internal links:
The title would link to the sonnet by Edna St Vincent Millay from which it is taken.
The first paragraph would link back to my father's autobiography.
"teachers": links to pieces about some of the teachers and classes.
"chess": link to a whole chess thread, including how we learned chess (a hungry cousin thought he was buying "cheese" men), my chess career, my decision to stop serious chess, etc.
"They were not all that common then ..." link to "Delby and the Eagle Defense", a related short-story (memoir).
"reputation": a link to a childhood reputation thread. Because of a lucky judo throw on a popular fellow-student, I never had to fight a lick in junior or senior high school.
"chess board in my mind's eye." Link to a similar incident when a rook suddenly turned into a truck in my lane.
"nudity": naturalist, naturist, nudist thread.
"logical": logic thread with some items like "Busting Santa", how I got thrown out of Sunday School, a childhood invention that tested syllogisms for validity, a piece on bare-handed deer hunting, my Anglo-Saxon verb-parsing slide-rule, my career in computers, etc.