The beginning.

March 30, 2013 § 11 Comments

Dogwood in bloom.Life is a story told by a narrator who is not very good at it.

The story takes turns without logic or foreshadowing. There are long pauses (not pregnant, just boring). Every now and then the narrator, like a friend of mine who was particularly inept at joke telling says, “Oh did I forget to mention…”

And the “forgot to mention” is the whole point, but it’s too late to use the information–and the story falls quietly off a cliff or, having missed its opportunity, dribbles on.

So, in addition to the discursive story told by this second rate narrator called “real life” I do the job myself in a parallel perfected reality called the novel.

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March 24, 2013 § 11 Comments

You read the last page and close the book.

For a moment you remain in the story, reluctant to leave. Each time you picked up this book, your body, and the narrative of your own life whose unruly plot you barely control were left behind. You’ll miss that brief vacation, and you’ll miss characters you know better than you know many real people—you’ll miss the ride.

But you’ve hit the back cover, so you look up. Your familiar “real” life is still there, a little boring, a little scary, the plot arc random; real life could use a good editor.

For a writer the last page, after it has been rewritten a hundred times, is tossed like a paper airplane toward an unknown reader, who may or may not pick it up, smooth it out and read it.

The feeling of being kicked out of the story is the same. It just hits harder. Think Scarlet O’Hara: “Where will I go, what will I do?”

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The Grand Tour.

March 16, 2013 § 5 Comments

London Bridge.In my fourth grade bedroom was a pickle jar, the label covered by a photo of London Bridge cut from a travel ad in the New York Times Magazine.

In the jar was loose change, a crumpled dollar bill; my start on getting from my bedroom at 5 Canoe Broke Drive, Princeton Junction, New Jersey to “The Grand Tour.”

I yearned toward a world I had thus far experienced only as ink on glossy paper.

I got there too. I backpacked across Europe during college with two shirts, one jumper, a pair of pants, and a thin sweater. Coldest summer of my life. I knocked on the doors of Italian relatives who had clearly not gotten the letters my grandfather sent explaining who I was and that I was coming.

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The dress at the back of the closet.

March 8, 2013 § 4 Comments

Native azaleas.Good news!

It’s spring again.

I’ve seen spring before.  Many springs.

But for me the arrival of spring is like reaching into the back of my closet, attracted by the bit of green that shows behind the winter greys, to find a forgotten dress.

Turning slowly in front of the mirror, I discover that it still fits–and that it is just my color.

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On becoming a writer.

March 1, 2013 § 9 Comments

Words.Before we write our first word, we listen.

Think back to the early voices you heard, the stories they told, the expressions they used.

Can you hear them?

My own childhood was hung between the Italians and the Swedes.  The older Swedes had a lilt in their voices, an inability to pronounce the letter J.  When my grandmother proudly told one of the uncles that her younger son was going to Yale he slapped a hand on his heart, and said, “They’re putting him in Yale?  What did Bobby do?”

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