Journal

Health

December 7, 2008
Posted in ,

I got sick when I was twenty-five. Actually, the story must begin differently. I want to tell about the time I went to Pipeline, my first summer in Hawaii, with my family and some of our friends. I’d swum out maybe twenty feet when a wave rolled me, and held me under. I came up in time to be nailed and pinned by another. Over and over. I’d fight up in time to be...

Read More

Of Two Minds: A Reflexive Argument

December 7, 2008
Posted in ,

One mind: I’m the middle child of modern feminism. My older sisters broke ground, are radical, and kind of stiff, and like to give lectures. My younger sisters are dressing like Johnny Rotten and can take their girlfriends to prom with the wholehearted approval of their parents, teachers, and peers. And me, I keep my head down and work jobs alongside guys for the same wage and vote and play competitive sports. The assumption...

Read More

The Sentimentalist

December 1, 2008
Posted in

Brooke is a fan of the StoryPeople. For a while, I couldn’t think of them without thinking of her, and this made it impossible for me to consider them objectively. This last week, while she was out of school, we found a box of StoryPeople prints at a store, and panned through them. Whimsical, sentimental, new agey, clever. I found myself enjoying many of them.  Previously, I had been discussing bounded rationalism with a...

Read More

Tell

November 19, 2008
Posted in

We tell ourselves stories. Stories of our own achievement, of our limitations, of our potential. Stories to keep the monsters in the shadows on the walk home at night. Stories of love and devotion, stories of the winner in a particular argument, stories of our parents’ betrayal, stories of our cowardice. I’m too inexperienced. I’m too old. I’m not ready. I’m not good enough. We have myths of a garden, of spring, of a...

Read More

The Lottery

November 17, 2008
Posted in

This month on the New Yorker podcast, A.M. Homes reads The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Homes calls Jackson’s piece an iconic American story. Why American? Because the writer’s American? Because the work is read prevalently in America?  I read The Lottery in junior high, high school, and college. Like Wuthering Heights, it was part of the curriculum of each new school. Unlike Wuthering Heights—a pubescent, overblown work—I’ve always found The Lottery deeply unsettling. And...

Read More

Playing Mom

November 13, 2008
Posted in

Val McDermid said that characters don’t tell stories, writers do. And, of course, this is true. The characters are a writer’s creation, after all. But, my impulse to bicker with this statement comes from a difference in writer brain. I’m going to divide writers neatly into two categories: those who write to plot/structure, and those whose work is character-driven. McDermid, a mystery writer of intricate, layered plots, is the first. I’m the second. Is...

Read More

The Anti-Climax

November 10, 2008
Posted in

At a lecture by the poet, Jack Gilbert, years ago, he said that an editor had once advised him that perhaps his poems had big endings too often. I’m intrigued by that criticism. “The Great Fires” is a masterful book of poetry. I carried it in my backpack for years, and read some of those poems thousands of times. They fold back on themselves, the endings transfiguring everything that has come before. The narratives...

Read More

Warrior Poets

November 8, 2008
Posted in

More than a decade ago, my grandfather told me that no one was going to pay me to sit around and write poetry, and he hoped that I had a contingency plan. I didn’t actually believe him. Why couldn’t I make a living writing poetry? Why couldn’t I cross the country, eating diner apple pie, discussing the Black Mountain poets, exploring the revolution of imagist language? 

 I still dream about living in a...

Read More

These three things

November 8, 2008
Posted in

If you had to define your childhood by three things, what would they be? On my hike this morning with the dogs, I thought one would have to be my haircut. It has always informed my world in specific, and powerful ways. But, I just can’t play through on that one. My red dirt bike, my black dog, and the woods. The first two are, no doubt, self evident, but the third is the...

Read More

Tone

November 3, 2008
Posted in

For me, voice comes first. I see an incident—a girl dangling from an airplane, laughing—and I wonder, what’s that about? What’s going on there? I have to know more about that. For this second novel, I opened the door to a woman covered in blood, and I heard the question: “What have you done?” And that’s how it is. A voice, and the story comes from the voice. The voice tells the story. I...

Read More