Dear friends — Another month in that academic year that feels like a decade known as 2020-2021 lumbers on. How is it possible for time to fly AND crawl? No idea. But that’s how it feels. Too fast and too slow.
I am now onto Book 3 of Proust’s autobiographical novel-giant A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. It’s the perfect read for this weird moment, at least for me. Marcel, the hero, is an only child, who grows up in an urban center, living on the edge of the wealthy and aristocratic, but not actually IN it. I totally relate, because that was my childhood and early adolescence too. The other thing that’s interesting about A la Recherche is the relationship between the things depicted and the readership. The first volume of the 7 book opus appeared before World War I, but the rest of the book was delayed, appearing after the war. So, although the delay was slight, the first readers of Proust were experiencing the bulk of the book AFTER the cataclysm of the war. I just finished a particularly weird section where a friend of Marcel’s talks about the “art of war” to a group of enthusiastic and high-toned soldiers. How bizarre it must have been to read that section after the carnage of the actual war.
I wonder how we will “read” the books and films and tv shows and podcasts that circulated before Covid 19. How will we react to depictions of crowds at ballgames, bar mitzvahs, iftars, and birthdays? And what stories about travel? About poverty? About farming? About water? Are Black writers and Black artists going to get the cred and the cash they merit? What about finally doing the Reparations Project? What about Asian Americans and the resurgence of hatred so many of my friends and acquaintances face? A Latinx friend shared recently that they are sometimes mistaken for the cleaning crew when they enter a building. So much feels like it needs to change. White people, in particular.
What am I writing? I’m working on a poetry collection, and just recently I’ve started thinking again about a prequel to the Puppet Turners novel. I’ve attempted it a couple of times, but haven’t worked out the focus. I feel like I’m getting ready to try again. Readers have been generous in their positive reactions to my Narrow Interior novellette Rescue Plan and have asked “Who is that woman in the grey dress?” That question is answered partially in The Puppet Turners, but there is more to that story… in particular how a secret religion got started in the first place. I’ve done some writing on that question, and am gearing up to try again. I’m also thinking about a journalist at a local paper in Narrow Interior, and the mysteries that that journalist, who only works part-time (after all, this is a small paper), might uncover.
One of my teachers urged us to find something positive in every day. Another teaching text, Crash Landing on You, recommends “finding the small happiness.” I try to do this. Sometimes I manage it.
Wishing you all health and an abundance of stories — long and short.