The Last Blog Post of 2013: Beautiful Sentences

December 21, 2013

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

I can’t think of a better way to end this writing year than an appreciation of the beautiful sentences I’ve jotted in my journal in recent weeks, such as this one:

“The afternoon was golden and the wisteria vine on the porch was in full unshattered bloom.”

--Carson McCullers, “The Haunted Boy”

As the term drew to a close and my own creative energies returned, I began reading and rereading McCullers, Carver, Wharton and Munro. I treated myself to a hard copy of “Best American Short Stories, 2013,” a well-curated collection by Elizabeth Strout. Despite many years of experience and publication, I need reminding: What makes a good short story?

My less rushed non-teaching days are a tapestry of reading, writing, walking, swimming, seeing friends, cultural activity, doing the laundry. I try not to get too wound up by holiday obligations of any kind—particularly gift and greeting card frenzy—as to do so would cut into whatever free time I have between terms, not to mention my budget. Simplicity at this time of year is my friend. Yes, it is a new year, but a writer’s life unfolds on a different continuum. My journal, unlike a date book, is ongoing. It doesn’t end because the year, we are told, has ended. And the long, retrospective, generic letters from far away don’t satisfy; I prefer the effort of consistent, personal contact on email, Facebook, or telephone. I still have two friends who send me snail postcards and letters. Brava, a correspondence! A party or two is fine, with people I enjoy talking to. Otherwise, I’m not a party person. I need to recover from the chatter of a party and to settle down again into my own thoughts. My husband is a screenwriter—a collaborative medium—and doesn’t require as much quiet as I do to write. He’s always sharing ideas, dialogue, and plots. I keep mine to myself for a very long time. He is social and solitary , I am solitary and social. True, I am looking forward to a getaway at Christmas, and to spending time with our daughter and son-in-law, but the draft of a new story and my journal will be in my bag.

Dear reader, I’m not Scrooge, just a writer.







Bugs

December 4, 2013

A mature, well-read/educated bed bug.

Because it was the end of the summer and I had been upstate and it was a bad mosquito season, I thought I still had mosquito bites. It took a while to put two and two and four together as I examined a cluster of three-in-a-row (breakfast, lunch, dinner) wheals on my body early one autumn morning. My husband had nothing, lucky fellow; I am allergic to the bites.

We hadn’t been told by anyone that the building we had just moved into had a recent bed bug history and, though many apartments in the building were empty at the same time, we hadn’t thought to ask why. So we moved in, anticipating with pleasure the quiet of our new neighborhood, two offices, fresher air, some plants on the windowsills, items out of storage decorating our new home, the books we carried laid out neatly on shelves. Three months later, all the boxes were unpacked, new travel routines established, we were feeling more settled. Until that morning.

I remembered a student telling me once that she had bed bugs and had just moved to Brooklyn. And that it had been an exhausting nightmare. Those two words are not an understatement. Dear Reader, it has not been easy: friends are loath to come over (who can blame them?), and our apartment is not a home.

It’s now been two months since the ordeal started. I write on the eve of another fumigation, this time of the beloved books we carried with us to be reread or consulted. How fitting for two writers that the pages of books and journals might host the eggs of these creatures. I hope they are having a good read.

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