impose something unpleasant
I managed to avoid a lot of trouble because I knew how to blend in and generally sift through the days unnoticed by men who spent the majority of their time looking to
inflict pain on others.
a failure to show regard for others
I had seen the results of violence so often—with guys hauling off and smashing someone's face with their fists or with a metal tool, a baseball bat, a rock—and all for no other reason than some imagined
offense or to establish a reputation for savagery.
a feeling of deep regret, usually for some misdeed
Ironically, in spite of all the fear and
remorse and self-loathing, being locked up in prison is where I fully realized I had to change my life for the better, and in one significant way I did.
lacking physical or mental ease
I began to write stories—secret stories about myself and the
restless men around me.
make believe with the intent to deceive
While among them, I may have
feigned disinterest, but like my father I watched them closely and listened whenever they spoke.
a daily written record of experiences and observations
Then back in my cell I would sit on the edge of my bunk with my
journal spread open across my knees and try to capture their stories with my own words.
one's overall condition in life
Someone once said anyone can be great under rosy
circumstances, but the true test of character is measured by how well a person makes decisions during difficult times.
the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil
Like any book about mistakes and
redemption (Oscar Wilde's De Profundis is my favorite), the mistakes are far more interesting to read about (and write about)—so I'll start with where I think I went around the bend.
an opinion formed critically
I didn't debate their
judgment of me as "an immature, spoiled brat who needed a major butt-kicking in order to straighten up."
the condition of having good fortune
Even I knew enough to understand what Buddha meant when he said, "Always walk the road of happiness to
a forceful consequence; a strong effect
I knew I was free to change myself—free to feel the entire
impact of what I was doing.
completely wanting or lacking
I could blame the hollow feeling inside me on the hangover. But when the hangover passed, I knew I'd still sense that same
barren internal landscape.
distinctive and stylish elegance
Then she reached into her large carryall purse, fumbled around and pulled out some odd object, steadied it on the wooden podium, and instructed the students to "describe the object and remember to write with
marked by or given to doubt
When I heard this, I knew I was doing better writing by myself no matter how
skeptical I was of the results.
an item inserted in a written record
The first and most obvious was my daily
entry section, which I filled with a wild stream of thoughts in a conscious effort to capture my honest feelings, true motivations, and crazed activities of each day.
a desire to have something that is possessed by another
Each time I read a book, I cataloged the parts that struck me dumb with
envy and admiration for their beauty and power and truth.
exemption from punishment or loss
The third section was plain and simple vocabulary building, where I'd write words and definitions I wanted to learn and use. Words like: viscous,
impunity, paroxysm, unctuous, nefarious, onanistic, perfidious, lugubrious.
arousal of the mind to unusual activity or creativity
The fourth section was devoted to the moments of
inspiration when book ideas came to me in full-color flashes, like bits of a film remembered, or a forgotten conversation suddenly pulsing to life.
the inherent capacity for coming into being
I couldn't seem to concentrate long enough to weigh the worth of each thought, isolate its
potential, allow it to grow.
a remark expressing careful consideration
I figured I might start out talking about some personal
observations inspired by Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, then move on to a sensitive appreciation of Plath's The Bell Jar and its story of a woman's journey into madness.
lock up or confine, in or as in a jail
Earlier in their prison lives they had spent some time
incarcerated where we were now going to school.
feel sorry for; be contrite about
These men you see here will never be released from prison. They
regret their crimes, but it is too late for
a state of danger involving risk
Their lives are ruined, but they have volunteered to speak with you all today about the
perils of a criminal life.
leave behind empty; move out of
I seemed to become the main character, as if I had
abandoned myself and allowed some other person to step right in and take me over.
get or find back; recover the use of
It was a great ride becoming a fictional character for a day or a week, but when the temporary visitor left I felt as empty as a bottle, and when I
regained my own voice it was always strangely scarred from the experience, as though something in me had been torn open and then healed over.
clear or deep perception of a situation
I had a sneaky suspicion I was going to be the other kind of smoker—the kind I had also read about who go off the deep end and let life drift way out of control, and become dependent on dope and other users to help them out, and are abused and broken down and the only deep
insight they gain from the experience is that they have totally ruined their lives
an empty area or space
While in high school I accepted that I was living in a
void, but now that I was heading for college I needed some fresh air and fresh thinking.
an odd or fanciful or capricious idea
I couldn't explain myself to anyone because I was only full of excited urges and
notions and desires, kind of like the Hulk before he transforms.
the action of achieving something
But now my
accomplishments just seemed like survival routines, and I wanted to move on to more romantic turf and find out who I was and what might happen to me when the rubber met the road.
encounter by chance
I figured if I crisscrossed Florida from coast to coast as if I were tying up the laces on a high-top sneaker I would eventually
stumble on something juicy to write about.
a vivid mental image
As Kerouac wrote, "I was a young writer and I wanted to take off. Somewhere along the line I knew there'd be girls,
visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me."
proceed without interruption, in music or talk
My brain hummed along as one thought
segued into another.
imagine to be the case or true or probable
I knew something about literature and what people plotted in their hearts and thought and
suspected, but he knew the secret why behind each thought.
a saying that is widely accepted on its own merits
I had always believed in the
maxim that the best way to predict the future was to create it.
any information or event that acts to arouse action
Without science I was just another stimulus-response cave dweller howling at the moon.
an unshakable belief in something without need for proof
In the morning I found where Stephen Crane had lived and sat in front of his house reading The Red Badge of Courage, which was so good I couldn't figure out why I hadn't read it earlier. Henry Fleming's
convictions impressed me. His desire to fight. His fear of being a coward. His renewed battle courage.
a clear and telling mental image
I was so happy to be the first one on the scene and wrote down all my
impressions—just as Hemingway did in Spain during their civil war, and Crane after the sinking of the Commodore.
the ultimate agency predetermining the course of events
Fate, it seemed, had brought me down to Key West.
Fate brought the storm. And I felt
fated to write.
important in effect or meaning
I still didn't have anything
significant to write about so I just smoked another joint and recorded observations and reflections—just like Sal Paradise.
the opposition or dissimilarity of things that are compared
I sat at the bar and read A Moveable Feast and cried with a kind of jealous disappointment because that beautiful time in history had passed me by and the
contrast between the lush enchantment of Europe and my welfare-motel life was suddenly very sad indeed.