April 1st, 2008

Lewis and Clark

I’m still reading about Lewis and Clark. Mostly Lewis, right now--the book is technically a biography of him--but since he spent the most important years of his life hanging out with Clark, it’s not like I am not hearing about him, too. It is beginning to give me the fiction itch.

There are tantalizing gaps in the story. Both Lewis and Clark were supposed to keep journals daily. Clark did. Lewis didn’t. When he did write, he wrote at far more length than Clark, including a wealth of details. Ambrose’s theory is that Lewis was bipolar and couldn’t bring himself to write during his depressive interludes, finding it remarkable that he could cope with all he did under the pressure of his illness. For the period at the beginning of the trip, an alternate theory is that Lewis had that portion of the journal on him when he died. Ambrose, following Thomas Jefferson’s lead, seems to believe the death was suicide. I haven’t read the end of the book yet, but I am interested in how he accounts for the people in the area where the death occurred thinking it was murder. What more could a novelist ask for than missing journals and a suspicious death? Oh, yeah, and all in the context of an incredible journey.

So far, the itch is just an itch. I already have more projects than I know what to do with. I would have to absorb a whole bunch more information in order to write even semi-intelligently. The idea has probably already been written—after all, I have a copy of a kid’s book about the Lewis and Clark expedition written from the perspective of Lewis’s dog, Seaman (and there is more than one, I discovered, just now!).

An itch with repercussions. I already had a sense that the things I felt I needed to take notes about didn’t have all that much relevance to anything I would write for T., which is how I got into this reading in the first place.

As Clark would say, “Muskeeters verry troublesum.”