SPOILER ALERT – SPOILER ALERT – SPOILER ALERT
If you haven’t yet read Journal of a UFO Investigator, this post will contain spoilers. That’s why I’m putting the cover of Outtakes, which you can click on to read chapter 8, at the top. You might want to click and read, and come back to the rest of this post after you’ve read Journal.
On the other hand, if you’ve been reading the chapters of the Outtakes I’ve been posting each month, you already pretty much know what’s going to happen. And I don’t think the effect I wanted to create with Journal of a UFO Investigator depends on the surprise factor anyway. So maybe keep on reading.
Anyway, here’s the big spoiler, if spoiler it is:
The climax of Journal of UFO Investigator comes when Danny Shapiro returns from Israel to find his mother dead, which he experiences in his inner (“UFO”) world as the crash of the disk he’s been piloting in the New Mexico desert. This happens at the end of Part Seven. Part Eight of Journal describes his descent into an inner hell of grief and guilt, Part Nine his emergence from that hell into a world that isn’t what he’d dreamed or hoped or expected life to be, but has its compensations nonetheless.
The process, in other words, that we normally call Growing Up.
Chapter 8 of the Outtakes, which I’m posting now, runs parallel to Part Eight of the Journal. There’s more overlap between the two parallel stories than in the previous chapters, because it’s only at the beginning and end of Journal (and one spot in the middle) that Danny talks explicitly about what’s going on in his day-to-day life. In the original draft of my novel, which was several times longer than it became in its published form, the material that’s now in Outtakes chapter 8 and Journal Part Eight was woven together, all of it written in third person.
A lot of what you’ll be reading in the current posting obviously had to be cut from the published Journal. The Scofield “landing,” the UFO book Danny writes (or tries to write) for Basil Richard at Cloverleaf Press, his relationships with the Israeli girl Shoshana and the young Dutch woman Kristin–none of these had a place in the winding-up sections of Journal, since their narrative threads had already been plucked from the novel. There are other parts, though, that I really regretted to lose.
They had to go, partly in the interest of the story’s conciseness and momentum, partly because they couldn’t have well survived being recast from third to first person. Yet they do convey something of the texture of, and the feelings behind, Danny’s shame and pain.
Take, for example, Danny’s first Yom Kippur after he finds his mother dead. (It’s in section #5 of the attached chapter.)
He and his father fasted, and spent most of the day in synagogue, and although he didn’t really believe in God he tried to get into the full feeling of Yom Kippur: the burden of sinning that lay upon him, which would be lifted when the fast ended at nightfall. He stood and beat his chest, hard, as he recited his sins.
We have sinned.
We have been guilty.
We have betrayed.
They blew the ram’s horn finally, when it was dark outside, to say it’s all over, you can go eat now. Danny had hoped to hear, as the hymns had led him to expect he might, the divine word Forgiven! He didn’t hear this or any other word. All he heard was a horn, feebly blown.
It’s not easy to hear the word Forgiven! from an angry, condemning Father in Heaven when that Father doesn’t really exist, and the only person who might really be able to forgive you is dead and gone. So the condemnation stands, flinty-hard and unyielding.
Or Danny’s reaction when his father tells him Basil Richard is calling him long distance (section #12 of the attached chapter):
The words long distance had a strange effect. Danny thought of what it might mean to be called from a long, long distance. He saw, very vividly, his mother lying sick in the room next door to his, while he sat hunched over his typewriter pounding away on his UFO book, making the unending typewriter noises that comforted her ailing heart. The noises had stopped, just for a few weeks, and her heart had stopped too. The magic vehicle that should have carried her to safety had gone down, crashed. The blame and punishment would be his, for ever and ever.
There’s his UFO crash. And the reason why, in Journal of a UFO Investigator, he ends up burning on a stake in hell:
I realize: she’s given water to drink because she was a good girl, that little daughter of my grandfather. And I am left to burn with thirst because I was supposed to keep her alive and I let her perish. I was supposed to comfort her, and I left her to die alone.
I killed her.
She smiles down at me, very lovingly, and I know I am forgiven.
But punished nonetheless.
Not eternally, although to Danny it feels that way. He will emerge from his hell. But the conditions of his emergence, and the brightness of his future after he staggers forth, are not quite the same in the book as I originally wrote it, and in what was published as Journal of a UFO Investigator.
I’ll post on that in October, when I put up chapter 9 of the Outtakes.
by David Halperin
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