(Michael Perkins, my good friend and co-author of Walking Woodstock: Journeys into the Wild Heart of America’s Most Famous Small Town, wrote this brief memoir as an introduction for an unpublished sampler taken from his novels, plays, reviews, and poems. After I read it at the launch party for his Carpe Diem: New and Selected Poems, several people asked to see it in print.)
When I was fourteen and just beginning to wonder what I might do with the rest of my life, I was handed a death sentence. There were dark circles under my eyes, and my ankles were swollen. I had acute nephritis, which would kill me in a couple of years. The doctor said there was no treatment available, but he suggested hypnosis. So I reported for weekly hypnosis sessions, and began to write. My mother bought me a typewriter, and I pounded out a novel, a one act play, short stories and poems. I wanted to leave some trace behind, some evidence that I’d been here.
Miraculously, the hypnosis worked. I set forth on a fifty year engagement with the written word. I couldn’t imagine a better way of spending my left over life than sitting down at my desk each day and casting a line into the depths.
I wrote fiction, book reviews, journalism, and anything else offered me, and published over two million words. I followed no path other than that of defiance—of death, and of what was expected.
I listened to my better angels and darker demons, and did what the rhythm said.