Review: Prodigal Child by E. David Moulton
(For Dave, I offer my apologies at taking so long to get this out. The hardest part was organizing the piece into something coherent. When you consider that I have a mind full of useless mush, you'll understand my usual state of chaos.)
E. David Moulton
prodigal adj. 1. Recklessly wasteful, extravagant. 2. Profuse in giving, exceedingly abundant. 3. Profuse, lavish....The American Heritage Dictionary
I think we can all claim to have been prodigal children once or twice. We learn that decisions have consequences and that bad decisions almost inevitably have bad consequences. Marry in haste, repent at leisure, paraphrasing William Congreve.
Dave Moulton's “Prodigal Child” is a tale of cycles, from bust to boom to bust once again. Perhaps it should be expected that a cyclist like Moulton would think in such terms, with life going from low point to high point and back to low point again. Or perhaps it's the same as the birth-growth-death-rebirth cycle so prominent in religious thought, where death can be literal or figurative. Regardless, we all go through similar changes, if not on the epic scale of his protagonist, Eddie Connor.
Eddie Connor's story starts in the middle of the Second World War. He was a boy in a working class family when his father went away to fight. His brother joined the RAF and disappeared over the Channel. We refer to those men as the Greatest Generation now, but for little Eddie, his father was more a nightmarish figure than a hero. Still the war shaped his childhood. His abusive father shaped his psyche. Like Eddie, we all try to overcome our childhood, and if we're very lucky, we learn to forgive our parent's mistakes and weaknesses. Eddie had much to overcome, and like many children, he inadvertently began to follow the same dysfunctional path as his father before him. He found that bad decisions bring bad consequences in their wake. But he learned from his past rather than allow himself to be a prisoner of it, and made a conscious decision to break away into a new life. He found purpose and direction in art.
“When I was painting I was lost; I had no thoughts...I drew from something deep inside and the brush in my hand followed. Sometimes I would start painting with no clear idea of where I was going and after several hours a picture and an idea would emerge. Some of my best work was created this way”
“When the creative process was flowing the time would just fly by and I would often look at the clock to find it was ten or eleven o'clock at night, sometimes midnight.”
Like many creative people, Eddie was happiest when he did the worked with his hands, whether it was a guitar, a paintbrush, or a sculpture. That same creativity flowed through it all, springing from one source deep inside him. He described music as having structure and form, while sculpture had rhythm and melody. Ultimately, the cycles of boom and bust, joy and sorrow, lead him to the great metaphysical questions of human life. Why are we here? Does life have a purpose? The resolution was vaguely unsatisfying, because Eddie revealed he hadn't really learned from it. Instead, he seemed to plunge back into the same endless repetition. Perhaps this is the point – we cannot fully break with the past and we're doomed to repeat it one way or another. In Eddie's case, it seems the cycles diminish as time passes, becoming ever fainter echoes.
Finally, I need to point out that I found a dead gnat squashed inside the front cover. I've named him Herbert. It's unlikely he experienced anything similar to Eddie's angst, since the cycle for an insect consists of birth, feeding, procreation, and then death. There's much to be said for leading a simple life, of course, but not necessarily one that simple.