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Tex Has Horses and Plenty of Air

Fillmore, Nathanael Callaway (2018) Tex Has Horses and Plenty of Air. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Tex Has Horses and Plenty of Air is a selection of a larger work of memoir, based on my experience on the Camino de Santiago in the fall of 2011. Making up approximately the first half of the memoir, these chapters track the narrator from his arrival in Paris, across the French Pyrenees and west though northern Spain. As the narrator navigates internal and external challenges, driven by his need to rid himself of a panic disorder, he questions the relationship between actual identity and performance. To distance himself from his panic, his problems, his past and present, the narrator invents a series of new identities to try out along the busy pilgrimage route and in the process comes to appreciate his experience and the anxiety he carries. The earliest version of this memoir took shape in 2012, shortly after I returned to the US. It then continued to crop up here and there, in disjointed flashes and drafts, for the next five years. Finally, after two years in the MFA program writing almost exclusively memoir, in August of 2017, I decided to shelve the thesis I’d written about my teenage misadventures and focus instead on putting together a definitive, novel-length Camino saga. I’m relieved and pleased things took this turn. Spain was a far nicer place to revisit than R. L. Paschal High School. The trick with committing those blurry months of wandering to paper was finding ways to integrate what I’d learned about fiction in the program— the necessary beats, the classic archetypes, the shifting fortunes— with my actual experiences. Through revision, stakes had to be emphasized and characters needed further explanation. A phrase I heard in my first workshop that I’ve held onto since suggests itself: “the truth is never enough”. The greatest challenge of this project was attempting to integrate the expectations of a novel-reader with those of a memoir-reader, making a true account come to life like fiction. This can be especially difficult when dealing with innately repetitive subject matter, like relationship dysfunction and panic attacks. As a result, this project proved an essential bit of practice in finding creative ways to maintain momentum through a series of seemingly similar crises. I am highly influenced (though no longer quite consciously) by the works of Hemingway, as is made pretty obvious in the text. Though his terse, matter-of-fact style jars somewhat with my slightly headier, Dickensian clause-stacking, his talent for effective simplicity, for summing up people and places in single sentences, has always impressed me. On top of that, there’s always a little Wodehouse in my writing, regardless of subject matter. Funny things could be funnier and serious things need that relief, those moments of absurdity. As a memoir, this piece is built on truth. Like most truths, it’s been slightly rearranged. This project has allowed me to relive what was one of the most important, challenging, and rewarding experiences of my life. That alone was enough fun, for me, to justify the effort. I hope I have been successful in capturing that moment in time, that journey, in pushing past the travelogue to something more immersive. I hope I have managed to reproduce a fraction of the mad whirl of faces, conversations, highs, lows, cities and villages I found along the Way.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Anxiety; Camino; Memoir; Panic; Pilgrimage; Spain Creative writing
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2021 18:00
URI: http://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5427

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