Correspondence (a Commentary)

November 17, 2015 marks the one-year anniversary of the release of Correspondence (a fiction). I've always wanted to put out (a commentary) on the record. This is my [non]fiction.

Correspondence (a commentary) is a pay-what-you-want, 50-page downloadable PDF detailing my thoughts and inspirations behind 2014's nautical children's story. An audio download is also available on a suggested donation basis, with over an hour and a half's worth of content read by yours truly. I love audiobooks, and thought maybe some of you do, too. 


Here's one chapter for you to jam / read about the day the idea sparked. 


In May 2013, I got a speeding ticket in Houston, Texas during my LTP (and Girls) Tour on the side of a highway that I overestimated as being too busy for giving people speeding tickets. For what it’s worth, speeding out-of-state is never a great idea, because if you do get pulled over, you know that traffic cop knows that you’re not going to drive however many hours away from home you are to dispute the thing in court three months later. He’ll (usually) always meet his quota, and you’ll (usually) always be driving away thinking of all the dinners you could’ve bought with that two-hundred dollars.

I mean, that’s one reason not to speed, other than being a law-abiding citizen or fearing God or respecting authority or whatever.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with Correspondence (a fiction), but I always remember it as a sort of marker for the day that I came up with the story: driving away, fuming, getting to the edge of the city and deciding I was going to write an album about a girl and a boy and a treehouse. I have no idea where fury gave way to frivolity but I guess I got over the fine quickly enough. (Maybe, in some deep part of myself, buried in a psychotherapist’s dream, there’s a way to connect the dots between my citation that day, and the fiction’s end?)

I’m pretty sure the girls on the Girls Tour said something like “that sounds nice” and it was the sardonic equivalent of my fifth-grade teacher patting my head and saying the same when I told her I was going to grow up to be a professional skateboarder, or an astronaut. Either or. Chad Muska or Neil Armstrong, whichever.

But the idea stuck itself in my head like a nail and I wrote the first chapter at the end of that tour with five words rotating through my mind: boy, girl, treehouse, nautical, subversive. 

Now, subversive is an out of place kind of word, stacked up against the rest. It carries more weight and thought and meaning. But before we get into the behind-the-scenes of why, or what Correspondence (a fiction) is, or what I think that it might be, I’d like to articulate two disclaimers:

First, much of what you will read in the commentary to follow is so largely influenced by a series of lectures given a decade ago by Dr. Timothy Keller that I may as well have simply transcribed it and called it a day. I find this ironic because in my belief that artists are actually capable of originality, there is still nothing new under the sun. Perhaps that’s part of the tension we live in. Or perhaps it’s comparing apples to oranges. After all, to influence is not to photocopy, and I suppose the vast array of distinct artistry influenced by similar ideas is evidence of it. Keller’s theology of story influenced an original narrative, even if it echoes others before it, or ideas that existed long before I did. But it would be dishonest not to acknowledge my debt to Pastor Keller from the onset. 

Second, I’d like to say that I think that art can stand on its own. I think that stories can just be stories. I don’t think that you need to know the why behind Correspondence in order to enjoy it, the same way that I don’t need to know the why behind Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in order to enjoy it. That doesn’t mean the behind-the-scenes is unimportant, and of course the whys mean something (and Tolkien’s why happens to influence a lot of mine, in this case), but it is possible to simply enjoy something for what it is, or what you know it to be. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve always been drawn to artists whose lyricism forms any sort of depth enough to leave you sorting it out for yourself, or content to remain objective. When I was young, it was Andrew Schwab, Conor Oberst, Isaac Brock, Spencer Chamberlain, others. And even though my parents never stopped asking me why or what does it mean? so that they could understand or regulate, I never needed the lyricists’ reasons behind words that I simply thought were beautiful because they were. They existed. They were there and they were something that simply was and that was good in and of themselves.

That said, I’d like to tell you why...

(For those of you who know we love to collaborate with other artists, we hope you'll love the portrait art by Tom DesLongchamp - an amazing creator from Seattle, Washington. Please, on my behalf, give him some insta-love.)

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