How to Play a Blue Guitar: A Manifesto

On a lark I picked up my book How to Play a Blue Guitar yesterday morning and realized (again) that it’s a subversive little book in disguise. Maybe I should have called it Son (or Daughter) of Refuse to be Afraid, because it is a gentle nudge to live a kinder, gentler, more fearless life.

In between the short stories, and even threading through those stories, are a call to stand up against the emerging dictatorship of The Ones Who Think We’re Theirs, who would crush the individual under an avalanche of collective fear.

I had a notion to rename it or at least change the subtitle from the innocuous “Stories, Poems & Reflections” to “A Manifesto” or something that cries out “peace, love, fear not.” Instead I decided to leave the book in its disguise, to let it be quietly found by those who need it — and of course to occasionally point the way like this.

Blue Guitar is packaged like a record album. There are no references anywhere to my other books, there’s a track list on the back cover, nothing but music between the covers. I think it works.

Published impulsively in the early weeks of the 2020 house arrest, it has more of me in it than I realized at the time, from my short stories and flash fiction to my various manifestos — the sudden “I defy you” in “Today is the Day,” the above-linked “The Ones Who Think We’re Theirs,” the Tenets of Common Wealth — it’s a little book that says, Look here, this is me, I am this guy, try this out for size.

Renaming it How to Play a Blue Guitar: A Manifesto would change nothing about the inside but proclaim itself dangerous. Nah, I think I’ll let it be.

P.S. If How to Play a Blue Guitar is a two-record set, then Full is my triple album, or three albums released in the same package. But that’s a thought for another day.

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