After working on Isaac Bonewits’ biography on-and-off for eight years (mostly off), I’ve finally completed one of my key tasks: To scan in all his files and papers. (The exception is if Phaedra Bonewits sends me any more boxes of Isaac’s old material.)
So what’s next?
Send all the remaining physical files, papers, and calendars to the University of California at Santa Barbara, which has already accepted the bulk of Isaac’s old papers to be kept in their Religious Studies section. There is a minor temptation to keep some of it; what if I have to look up something that wasn’t scanned properly? But if my goal is to get the biography written, I have to draw some lines in the sand. Getting the stuff out of my apartment means I don’t have the excuse of re-scanning everything.
Maybe I’ll regret this later. I already regret not scanning some of the photographs I already sent in at high enough resolution to potentially be used as a book cover. So be it. I have to move forward.
Side note: Check if UCSB will still accept the material. It’s been five years since I last sent them anything. Their policies may have changed.
Get the last remaining interviews: Joan Carruth, Carolyn Clark, and at least one member of the musical group Real Magic. If you know one the first two, please feel free to ease me into an introduction.
After that, the interviews are done.
There are more people I’d like to interview, but they belong to one of the following groups:
- They’ve passed on; e.g., Shenain Bell; Robin Goodfellow.
- They’ve declined to be interviewed; e.g., Z Budapest; Yvonne Frost; Isaac’s sisters and mother.
- They’ve set requirements for an interview that I can’t meet; e.g., Linda VonBraskat-Crowe.
- I flubbed the intro and they’ve ghosted me; e.g., Diane Paxson.
There are other people I might interview. But at some point I have to say STOP and move on to the next task. I may be missing something by not interviewing Philip Carr-Gomm, Bill Heidrick, or Bill Kates. Again, I have to say “no regerts” and go forward.
Coding documents: At one point I hoped to code all of Isaac’s files. After scanning so many, I realize that this task would simply take too long and much of that time would be wasted.
In Witchfather, Philip Heselton was able to track all of Gerald Gardner’s travels by examining documents, hotel registries, and the like. But I can’t do the same with Isaac, even if I have lists of festivals in documents, flyers, calendars, and so on. For one thing, I can’t tell if he wasn’t able to make a given event.
More importantly, I have to make a choice as a biographer as to what’s worth including. Heselton made his choices, and I have to make mine. My decision is that I don’t need to track all his travel, his finances, his correspondence, etc.
I’ve already coded roughly 40% of the scanned documents over the past eight years. For the rest, I’ll glance at it, see if it seems relevant to a biography, and code it if it does. Again, there may be much that I will miss, but “no regerts”.
In particular, I made the decision a couple of years ago that I’m trying to be an Isaac Bonewits biographer. I am not trying to be an Isaac Bonewits scholar. I’ll leave that task to others; the documents and scans will be around for them to go over. Perhaps someone will one day get their Ph.D. in Bonewitsology, but that person cannot be me. The detailed coding and interpretation of Isaac’s papers I’ll leave to them.
I’ve trimmed down the overall task of preparing Isaac’s biography as time has gone by. At one point I hoped to create an oral history of his life from the interviews; that would require additional releases and forms that I’ve chosen not to obtains. I hoped to read Isaac’s books again; I may just skim them. I hoped to produce the definitive work on Isaac’s life; now I’m aiming for a work, not the work.
Isaac, Isaac, Isaac. Why couldn’t you have led a duller life?