My lover shot himself

 

Write for Advice

Dear Cary,

In my early twenties, I went to graduate school to study English literature.  I was deeply passionate about the written word and knew from the moment that I could read that I wanted to devote my life to this pursuit.  Idealistic, I felt like providence had led me to that moment in my life, and I was ready to enter the academic and literary world where I would finally “belong.”  Instead, I was met with a small circle of individuals who had greater desires for tenure than the actual sharing of knowledge and appreciation of language.  The program was more clinical than I needed it to be.  I was miserable in that environment and left graduate school early feeling confused and betrayed by the system that I had worked so hard to enter.

After leaving, I sank into a deep depression, only partly cured by a new relationship.  I met a poet and fell for him quickly, all my passion for language being channeled toward him instead.  I loved his poetry and the emotions that he conveyed with words.  I felt fulfilled through my relationship with him (although it was a tumultuous one) and was inspired to write as we shared the same creative spirit.  It was a long-distance relationship though, and he cheated with a woman he then married only a few months later. 

In mourning that relationship, I met another writer who picked me up off the floor more times than I care to admit.  I hate to sum him up as just a “writer” too, because he was everything to me.  He had the same acute sensitivity to the world that I do. Every pain I ever felt echoed the same inside of him.  We took turns spinning into depression and then giving/accepting consolation.  We fell in love with each other’s words over and over again.  Even his emails were art to me.  He was the most precious part of my life and I trusted him implicitly (although his love of story telling often led to superior forms of embellishment). 

He shot himself in the head almost four years ago. 

I miss him.

All of this is to say that I do not know what to do with myself. I feel like I have writer’s block of the mouth and pen.  I shy away from everyone and anything that I used to gravitate to because I feel so wounded by it all (whatever “it” is).  I don’t know how to connect with people anymore.  I don’t know how to write anymore.  I feel so profoundly but have no outlet.  I am disappointed in life, do not know how to go on without my partner even after several years, and do not know how to find others like me or make myself understood by those that are different.  I am not under the impression that life should be happy all the time.  However, I would like the ability to experience just a little bit of it every once in a while.  Sometimes.

What should I do to get out of this current un-life?  How do I find others with the same sensitivity to the world that can relate to me and I them?  What do I need to do to feel inspired to write again?

Thank you for being there,

Despairing Former Writer

 

Cary Tennis Online Writing Workshop

 

Dear Despairing Former Writer,

How do we recover from loss? We do it slowly. I am not surprised that you are still recovering from this traumatic loss, or series of losses — the loss of your graduate school dream, the loss of your intimate partner, the loss of your own creative practice.

As a first step, I suggest that you see someone trained in the treatment of depression and ask, candidly, if you appear to be depressed. If the answer is yes, then spend some time working with a therapist who is trained in the treatment of depression, sorting things out, getting help and support. I know what depression is like, and I know it can be treated and life can get better, and I also know the numbness and hopelessness and sense of worthlessness that come with depression.

At least find out. If you aren’t depressed, it will be good to have an expert opinion to that effect. You may just be grieving.

Either way, write through this pain. If you have not tried doing morning pages, as suggested in the book The Artist’s Way, try that. It is a good way to habituate oneself to daily writing after a period of inactivity. You do not need to feel inspired to write in order to write. You need only to write. Strangely enough, the writing will cause the inspiration, not the other way around.

May I share something with you? I, too, sought the companionship of fellow lovers of literature in graduate school and I, too, despaired and left, after learning mainly how to drink in bars.

I, too, have lived through bouts of depression. I have gotten help both professional and nonprofessional. What I cling to, and what I keeps me on this side of the suicide line, here with the living and not over the cliff with the suicides, is knowing that things will get better and that the steps I take will slowly help. In the bad times, in the down times, I do things to get through the day.

Writing will sometimes get you through the day. This morning I have been writing about my father, who had literary dreams but did not finish things, and how sad that was for me as a boy to watch, and how I have at times repeated my father’s pattern. And I have been thinking how painful it is to want to do better than one’s father, and the conflict that can bring, and how after leaving the family and all its particular horrors one wishes to find one’s genial tribe, and how there are many false tribes that will disappoint you, and how one’s true tribe are not found where you think they would be found — not necessarily in the graduate English department but out on the lawn smoking pot or working in mailrooms or as cab drivers, or devoutly following a calling.

In seeking our tribe we are often drawn to the ones who burn the brightest and promise the most. But do the ones who burn the brightest really have what we need, or are we just drawn to them because they burn so brightly? It seems to me it is often those who burn the brightest who let you down the hardest. Having fallen for this writer, having lost him so traumatically, you must be wary now of any trust, and not know how to distinguish between the dazzlers and the true friends. You may be wary that the ones who will dazzle you will also break your heart but not know who else to turn to. This is sure: Your heart cannot stand to be broken again. You need someone to be good and strong and kind to you. You do not need another romance with death.

Let me ask you this: Is there anyone among your close friends that you can totally rely on? Is there anyone you can lean on? Someone who loves you unconditionally? Family, a friend, a fellow lover of literature, a woman friend, someone? You need someone, not a lover, but a friend, not necessarily a brilliant person but a loyal person. Maybe a therapist would play that role; that is often the unexpected beauty of therapy, that we are able to fall in a kind of love with someone in an unproblematic way, for our own good, to reawaken our own capacity for love. This person need not understand your aesthetic complexities. You just need someone you can lean on.

I will tell you a little about my own recent experience of depression. First, some bad things happened, so it wasn’t like depression came out of nowhere; bad things happened both medically and socially. So when I sought treatment for depression, the professionals’ first thought was that I was socially isolated and needed IPT — InterPersonal Therapy. It then became apparent that I had some deeper issues that needed a psychodynamic approach. But out of that psychodynamic approach finally came the strength for me to essentially do IPT — to repair my social network. So now I am answering the telephone and responding to emails. I am cherishing the friends I have. I am reaching out. That is helping. Also I am working methodically on my literary craft. That, too, is helping. And I participate in 12-step meetings. That, too, is helping.

Maybe you still need to grieve this loss completely. I’m not sure, frankly, how one does that. I suppose that for each person it is personal. But there is some good to be had by saying it out loud: I need to grieve. I am grieving. Out of that comes acceptance of the melancholy, the heaviness and slowness. One can say, I am feeling heavy and slow with grief still. That does not mean there is something wrong with me, just that something terrible happened.

Something terrible happened. You are not over it yet. Eventually you will be.

Ask a professional about depression. Strengthen your social network. Identify people who are there for you. Lean on them. And write your way through it, too, not trying to be brilliant, but trying to tell the truth.

WhatHappenedNextCall

 



Jan Rosamond

Our person of the week: Jan Rosamond

Happy New Year! After slowing down for the holidays, Cary and I are back working at full speed. The “Featured Person of the Week” is back, as are more columns and creative writing from Cary.

A note: because many commenters have mentioned that they would like the ability to edit their comments after they post them, we’ve changed our method of posting comments. You now need to log in to our site to post a comment, as this is the only way out site will let you make edits after posting. I hope you won’t find this extra step too cumbersome. Please keep the comments coming!

Have a great week!

 

We first met Jan at our writing retreat at Marconi Conference Center. Since that time, Jan has embarked on a “self-funded, self-directed, multi-media inner research project” called Dharma Town. Dharma Town is intended as a sangha-building resource for practitioners of Insight, Mindfulness and Metta Meditation in the St. Louis area. For the past 2 years she’s been writing every weekday on Dharma Town Times, where she posts her reflections on all-things-dharma.

Below is Jan’s unique take on the Creative Getaway:

I’ve been to several of Cary’s Creative Getaways…the first one he ever held and then the second, and the third one, too, I think…and they were all wonderful, joyous, inspiring and quite amazingly productive…but the one I remember the most was the one where the Bear showed up. Not a real, live bear, of course. Not exactly.

Cary had given us a prompt which asked us to let that part of ourselves that is afraid to write—write. He said to let it say whatever it wanted to say. Which sounded a little too “woo-woo” for me, but then I got started and I found myself writing the words: “You don’t trust me, you don’t believe in me, you don’t feed me.” And then: “You put me on display—like a bear on a chain—and you expect me to dance for you, but you don’t own me.” And then it was like the power of whatever it was that I had been afraid of for so long took over and these words just poured out:

“I’m a bear. I’m a huge, smelly, filthy bear. I have sharp, yellow, slobbery teeth. Don’t try to pretty me up. I have wounds that oozed. I have festering sores. But my eyes are clear and my great, soft belly is the color of ripe peach. Let me be what I am. Let me breath and drool. Let me claw through the garbage and break things. Let me roam and let me stumble in the dark. Let me stink the place up.”

Then I wrote: “You’re scaring me.” And then: “I know. Let me scare you.”  

But the thing is, I wasn’t afraid. I was energized. And since then, I’ve never been afraid to write.

Cary Tennis writing retreat in Chester Connecticut

 



Cary’s column for the new year: The world is a beggar rooting in your backpack

Dear reader,

The following column first appeared Tuesday, February 15, 2011. As always, if you would like advice, please write to advice@carytennis.com. Happy New Year!

Dear Cary,

I feel somewhat guilty even writing to you; you seem to have excellent insight into many people’s problems, and should you choose to answer my letter, would someone more desperately in need not have their letter answered? I am probably writing this (as I suspect many who write to you are) more to get my thoughts down than anything. In any event, I think that your thoughts would be incredibly valuable to me.

I’m 25, I have a master’s degree, a fantastic job (in an albeit less than fantastic geographic area) and I’m doing work that I like with people I enjoy. On top of that, I’ve a family that supports me in everything I do. I am single, though I’m mostly OK with that at this point in my life.

The problem is that I’m terrified of getting stuck. I don’t want this job to be my career. I don’t want this town to be my home. I don’t want to wake up and realize I’m 40 years old and haven’t really done anything.

I feel a fierce sense of urgency calling me to create something, to do or make something meaningful, to the point where I can’t sleep. I just can’t seem to find the outlet.

I’m not an artist. I have never felt (nor do I now) compelled by the visual arts. I used to be a musician, but I haven’t touched my instrument in years.

I feel like writing could be the trick. I’m not one for fiction. Though I do read it, I don’t believe I understand people well enough to have any idea where to begin creating a character.

I could write nonfiction (I suppose anyone can write nonfiction), but I have no idea how one gets a start in that racket. And even then, I have no idea if that’s the outlet I’m looking for, it’s just the most plausible one so far.

I just feel like something is bottled up inside of me. The phrase that comes first to mind is “creative energy” though I fear it’s been there so long it is turning into something more noxious.

It’s affecting my life in negative ways. I used to be an incredibly jovial person … I haven’t been for some time now. I have less interest in other people. I just want to figure out what it is I need to do.

Thanks for listening,

Hoping for Insight

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Dear Hoping for Insight,

Change the way you listen to this urge. Try to hear it as a request, not as a desire. It is a request from outside you for something you may be carrying. The world doesn’t know what you are carrying. Or maybe it doesn’t know quite how to ask for it. But it wants something from you.

Consider this: The world approaches you like an ugly beggar and begins pawing through your backpack. So you resist. The world wants something. It just doesn’t have a very nice way of going about it. It grabs for things you think are sacred. You resist. It grabs for things you think are worthless. You resist. You say, that’s worthless, you don’t want that. But the world keeps pawing through your backpack.

You may or may not have what the world is asking for. So you say, Back off, world. Here, let me produce in an orderly fashion the things that are in my backpack and let’s find out which thing you want.

You start producing what is in your backpack. Is it this that you want? That?

The world does not speak your language. It makes gestures.

You have to understand the world. It might not want what you think it should want. In my case, for instance, I persist in believing that I know what the world should want but what the world has asked me to do is to be a good copy editor so I have been a good copy editor. For a while the world asked me to be a rock journalist and before that a musician, but then the world got tired of seeing me do those things. I was only mildly interesting to the world in those roles. Then it turns out there is an opening for something unexpected. The world says here, be an advice columnist. I’m like, WTF? But I have learned to be of service. I could say I’d been wasting my life. Or I could say I’d been preparing.

We wait for openings. We spend our lives in the wings. But if we make ourselves available, we are sometimes shoved out onto the stage.

We make ourselves available. We learn the skills we may need if an opening occurs. We cannot force the world to open. We wait our turn. Sometimes we think we are ready but we don’t look ready to the world. It says, I don’t think you’re ready yet. We say, You have no idea how ready I am but the world already is not even listening to us; it has turned its attention elsewhere and the moment is gone so we go back to our endless preparations.

The world can be fickle and hard to understand. We’re like that, too, are we not? We think we will be interested in something but when we get it home it isn’t as interesting as we expected it to be. We try things. The world tries things. It takes us to the store and says, here, try this on. No, that’s not it. How about that? It can get tiring but we’re not the one with the credit card.

The world may not want what you think is your greatest talent. So we learn that we are not the best judge of what we have to offer. We learn that if we simply adopt a posture of service, the world will let us know. It will let us know by hiring or firing us, by injuring us or instilling us with energy, by dropping us off on desolate roads, by throwing us in with vagabonds and truckers, by arranging for us to attend Harvard, by managing the weather to delay the flight to Cincinnati so we meet someone pretty and unexpectedly candid who guides us to a lepidopterist. Or to a chiropractor. Who knows.

Shift your perspective. You’re not running the show.

What we express does not originate inside us. What we express we pass on. We borrow. We are conduits. This yearning, this is not from inside you. It is your response to an invitation. Or you might say it is a pressure differential rooted externally. The world is trying to pull something out of you. Let the world pull this thing out of you. Let the world act on you.

The future is unknowable. If it’s in the right direction, that’s often good enough.

If there are lights on the horizon that attract you, start walking toward them.

© Copyright Salon Media Group

Write for Advice

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We stood at the turning point: Brian Herrera and the beauty of change

What our friend Brian Herrera wrote today about his experience at the Creative Getaway at Marconi spurred some thoughts of my own which I’d like to share — with people who’ve had this experience and with people who perhaps do not know about the Amherst Writers and Artists method or the creative getaways Norma and I have put on at Marconi Conference Center since 2008.

Actually, I have a lot to say so I’ll post this in two or three parts. The first part, for today, is this: Brian’s post reminded me how much the AWA process can work as a catalyst at a crucial turning point in someone’s life. People get spurred on to make courageous changes and then they write books. They get degrees. They get jobs at Princeton.

Which means that they move on.

So let me tell you about my own kind of mixed-up psychology, or my personal emotional baggage: I am always trying to reconstruct my family. So if you come within my field of gravity, I will assign you a part in my imaginary family, as a brother or sister or uncle or aunt or parental figure. And then when someone whom I have assigned a place in my imaginary family makes a sudden move toward growth and change, my impulse is to say, Wait, hold on, you have to stay in the family!

Also, as a business, we can get hung up on having “repeat customers.” It makes it easier for us financially if everybody just comes every time. As producers of the event, Norma and I are focused on repeating it as an event, making it happen again and again. Yet the essence of it is about change: people using the AWA method to speak their truth, making changes in their lives and moving on.

There are some words in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that are relevant here: “Half-measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.”

People come to the creative getaway because they are standing at the turning point. They have tried half-measures, acknowledging as portion of the writer self, for instance, feeding it enough to keep it from dying but mainly in life attending to what is practical and pressing and immediate, while continuously thinking that one day perhaps we’ll get around to seeing what this writing thing is all about, and this niggling, half-ignored voice of the writer will get its due. One day. Sometime.

Keep on like that and then suddenly you’re 80. So we say come, now, while the impulse is fresh, begin a dialog with the writer self in you, and make the changes you need to make.

But how does that relate to the production of story? One might ask, where is the craft in all this? Where is the practical application? How is this going to help me be a writer?

I say, paradoxically, that abandoning for the moment all concern about craft is the route to finding our true story, for story is about revelation. Story is not about craft. Craft is a vehicle. Story is about facing desperate moments. So in coming to Marconi, or Chester, or Melrose, or Santa Barbara, or Amsterdam, or Tuscany, one may be treating oneself, but one is also mining one’s own desperation for that kernel of truth that is the only story that matters.

Story comes from personal truth in conflict with the world. One recognizes what is real, what is right, what must be done, and sets about changing, upsetting the apple cart, creating tension. Poetry, too, comes of conflict — confronting the barriers of language itself, twisting it to fit what is otherwise inexpressible.

So coming to Marconi to explore one’s relationship to the writing self is also about finding the story that writing self is best suited to write. Conversely, when we are stuck we are not only avoiding the situation, we are avoiding the story. The story begins when we acknowledge the situation and start dealing with it — as Brian did.

Thanks Brian, for reminding me what is the essential function and goodness of the AWA method.

The point is that if you “stand at the turning point,” if you are at the fulcrum of change and ready to set a new angle of trajectory, this may be what you need. And then, if this is what you need, then our job is to make it possible for you to do it.

It takes a little trust — trust of oneself, and also trust in external things coming together. In Brian’s case, for instance, there was the long-agonized-over dissertation. There was also the fact that it was his birthday; and his partner was supporting him in the decision. And a little bit of money had come into his hands that made it make sense to do it. All those things came together.

In other cases it may be just the soul crying out, saying, It’s time to do this. This is what you need, even if it does not appear to be the practical thing. Life is like that sometimes. We have to make a leap of faith.

My job is to be there and make the event happen. If now, having read this, you recognize that you are at some kind of turning point, then please let me know and we will see what we can do to accommodate you.

Oh, and feel free to phone me on impulse. 415 308-5685. You don’t need to have your whole plan figured out. You don’t have to be sure you’re coming. Call if you just want to talk about the possibility of it. I love to talk. All this emailing makes me miss talking on the phone. I don’t have things all figured out so I don’t see why you should.

p.s. Say Hello to Brian on Facebook!

 

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Our featured person of the week: Brian Herrera

We first met Brian Herrera at our first-ever Creative Getaway. An exceptionally talented and inventive writer, he amazed us all during our evening reading sessions by one moment reading us the most deeply moving piece, and the next reading something that would leave the entire room in tears of laughter. Here’s what Brian has to say about himself, the Creative Getaway, and his new project, Storywork:

When I got the email announcing Cary’s first Creative Getaway, I knew immediately I had to go. Even though it made no sense. Such an extravagance. Terrible timing. School would be back in session and, dang, it would be the weekend immediately prior to the last-chance, do-or-die submission date for my long-overdue dissertation! But…it would also be my birthday weekend. And a perfectly-sized lump payment had finally landed in my account. So when my partner said he’d spring for the airfare as a birthday gift, I clicked the button. I was in.

It was a gift, I reminded myself. Not a reward exactly, but a tangible gift to confirm that promise I made to myself. That promise that I would finish the dissertation. That confirmation that finishing the dissertation was itself an act of healing. That reminder that finishing meant I could no longer pretend I was just a dissertator. That finishing meant I was a writer.

And what better way to make that promise real than to join a bunch of other writers on a mountain near Tomales Bay?

That first Getaway was indeed a life-changer. In maybe the first session, I wrote my first real amends to my writerly self (using only single-syllable words, naturally). Within twenty-four hours, I wrote my first words of fiction. And by the weekend’s end, I felt as if a new chapter of my life had begun.

Looking back, just five years later, I realize that Cary’s Getaway didn’t make me a writer, but the experience did goad me to embrace that I am a writer, because I am someone who writes. That simple turn of mind not only opened a new chapter in my life, but also a renewed sense of self. And, in the five years since, I have kept writing in all kinds of ways. And not only the scholarly nonfiction required for my job, but exploring other forms, including young adult fiction, children’s picture books, and creative nonfiction The practice I began at the Getaway also took me directly to the particular set of coincidences that launched my autobiographical one-man show, I Was The Voice of Democracy, which has since been seen scores of times in more than a dozen states (not to mention Beirut and Abu Dhabi). I now enjoy a thrilling sideline in what I call “storywork,” or a mode of autobiographical storymaking in which the processes of writing and performing are so twined that the one can never be fully untangled from the other. (My new Storywork website launches this week — check it out!) And just a month or so ago, my ecstatic editor sent back a set of glowing reader reports, so now I’m hunkering down for a few weeks of deep revision because… Well, you remember that old dissertation? It is now nearly a book, presently under advance contract with a major university press and with a likely release sometime (hopefully early) in 2015.

And it all tracks back to that gift of a promise that Cary’s Getaway made real for me: I am a writer, because I am one who writes. So I better get to writing!

Our person of the week: Michele Crockett

Cary first met Michele Crockett at his Amherst Writers and Artists-style online workshop and since that time Michele has gone on to receive her own AWA certification. In May 2013 Michele was certified by the fabulous Maureen Buchanan Jones, Executive Director, AWA. Although Michele is currently working as Graduate Faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she is also working to get her own AWA workshop group going in the spring of 2014. If you are a writer living in the area of Champaign, IL you should seriously think of giving Michele’s workshops a try. The AWA method is remarkably effective and Cary and I have witnessed countless writers grow and thrive using this method. To learn more, contact Michele at info@writingwhilewinded.com.

 

Michele is working on a collection of short stories with a supernatural twist which she hopes to finish soon. Oh, and did we mention that Michele is the sister of Francine Crockett? Francine is one of our very first workshop participants and a writer extraordinaire!

 

New column today? Hmmm …

Write for Advice

Dear Reader,

Well, I’m in Monterey this morning, here to help some writers. Also here to write on my own.

When I was writing the Since You Asked column for Salon.com, which I did for nearly 12 years, every day I wrote it I wanted to be proud. It was an extraordinary opportunity for a writer, for someone who really doesn’t know how to do much else and so has had to find jobs writing and editing and weather the uncertainties and deprivations of such jobs. Having had writing jobs and lost writing jobs I knew also that it would eventually end. That had been my experience and my observation, that writing jobs end. They live at the most 15 or so years, like dogs. So I was ready for it to end.

But every day until it ended I wanted it to be something I could be proud of. So I never slacked. I never dashed anything off. It may have seemed at times that I did but when the column was sloppy or not well thought out it was just because I reached the limits of my own personal ability. Because I knew it would end and I wanted to serve in that strange army with whatever strange distinction I could muster.

So when I left Salon, when that job ended, I thought at first that the noble and fine thing to do would be to end it. I did not want it to have a sloppy, drawn-out death of half-starts. So if I were to continue, I would have to give it the same effort as before. This I continue to hold to. So if I cannot give it the same attention and care and desperate effort as before, I do not think I should do it.

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This raises a problem, because the one reason I was able to throw myself into it every day was that I knew it was paying the bills. I knew that as long as it was a salaried occupation, I could give it everything and be exhausted and unable to do much else for the rest of the day, and that was OK because the nut had been secured.

The nut is now not secured. So when I write the column I must somehow again reach that fevered certainty that what I am doing is vital.

I am going to try to reach that condition by placing “Donate” buttons at the end of the column. I will see if that works. I figure on some days, if the column reaches a person, truly reaches them, changes their life for the moment, as I have been told these columns occasionally do, then it would not be unreasonable to say that such a column might be worth $25, or $50, or more. Not every day of course, but I would like to present that option, that when a column truly moves someone, they can express that, and by doing so, they can keep me writing it. And of course it would also be possible to donate $1, or $5, or nothing. The column would be free. The donation would be like an expression, a statement: Yes, Cary, I want you to keep doing this. Do that again. Here’s some vital inducement to do that again.

Because I really am going to have to figure out how to make a living.

So for today, because I do not feel I can give it everything I have, because I am in Monterey and have to go to breakfast and see if I can be of service to some other writers, because the day is uncertain and I am in a strange hotel, because I never want to rush it or short-change it or cut corners, I do not think I am going to write a column today. Besides, I have to figure out how to work those “Donate” buttons.

Thanks for being there.

CT

p.s. Oh, one other thing. I find that I miss the daily writing for an audience. I have never acquired the habit of blogging about whatever, because that seemed pointless and self-indulgent and also because I had the column as a perfect outlet for my daily writing obsession. But now that I don’t have the column, and I can’t afford, mentally, spiritually and economically, to write the column every day, I may just adopt the habit of blogging every day about just whatever. It would at least give me the illusion of being in touch with others. And the bar would be a bit lower, so that if I had nothing of any consequence to say, I could still meander a bit, like a morning walk with friends, not saying much of anything, just mumbling, but being there.

Anyway, that’s it for today, from me, for real this time, down here in Monterey in the fog, by the beautiful, beautiful sea.

Write for Advice

Whatever Happened to Sara Jane … and Learning to like Michael Chabon

I do not remember exactly how I developed this huge attitude about Michael Chabon. I think it was the book Cavalier and Clay that sort of sealed it. We did not like the “innovative” language. But I have felt guilty about this for many reasons. Not only is Michael Chabon sort of local, and we should be nice to locals, but he is a brilliant writer in his way and also a father and husband and no doubt a nice man in many ways. Why is it that in matters of literary reputation we find it wholly acceptable to think and say awful things about people? It is not a desirable trait, I will say that; the desirable thing to do is to read carefully and judiciously and take note of where we differ with the writer on matters of style and preference and so forth. Yet, I suppose to those of us who take writing seriously, it is a matter of life and death and so we get all bent out of shape and conjure up these elaborate and childish peeves.

Also, it was sort of a secret perversity: How could anyone not love Michael Chabon? One sensed that it was a civic virtue to like Michael Chabon. So I wanted to come to some rational and reasonable opinion.

This is sort of the story of how that happened. That is, again today Muni took me to a library, this time somewhat by a perverse accident, and that is how I came to read the Michael Chabon story “A Model World.”

I also want to say — indeed started out this letter intending to say — that I took Muni to Powell Street today to go to the Exit Theater at 155 Eddy Street for Ady Abbot’s solo performance Whatever Happened to Sara Jane? today and it was really, really great. And that is what led me indirectly to read the Michael Chabon short story called “A Model World,” first published in The New Yorker in 1989.

If you live in SF and take Muni you will relate: After leaving the theater I found that an “equipment failure” had occurred in the Civic Center Muni station and the underground was not running. (Yes. You know.) So I took BART to 24th Street to catch the 48 Quintara out to West Portal Station where I had left the car. When i arrived at 24th Street, I found the 48 would not leave for 33 minutes. But voila! There is the Mission Branch Library so I did what I used to do all the time, which was go in and hang around among the books. And that is when it occurred to me that I have certain somewhat reflexive and not wholly rational prejudices against certain perfectly acceptable and even brilliant writers. So I browsed. I thought to myself, Let me see something Michael Chabon wrote when he was young and not such a brilliant big shot; I’ll bet I can learn to like his work if I read the early stuff, before it got fancy and full of aspiration toward something — and I don’t mean to be harsh here, I’m just guessing — perhaps only partially realizable. That was when I found the short story collection A Model World and took it home, along with also A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, a collection of T.C. Boyle stories Tooth and Claw and finally the Raymond Carver collection, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? since I realized I have been using Raymond Carver as a sort of marker and totem of a certain kind of voice and style without really any great passion or clarity lately, having not really read carefully any of his work, and thought, hey, I should get a taste of that if I’m going to talk about it. Tastes change. We come back to things and feel differently about them. Reading is a constant series of corrections.

So one interesting thing about “A Model World,” published in 1989, was the place that “the so-called greenhouse effect” plays in the story. It’s a moral tale, and it’s indeed riveting and entertaining but also offers a glimpse of mid-1980s academia, academic life and the state of computers and as well the state of climate science and the state of Michael Chabon, which seems, at that time, quite likable. Competent, warm, likable. So I will stop hating on Michael Chabon. I feel much better now, thank you.

But about Ady’s performance, which was great: This was the last day of the Fringe Festival so you will have to wait to see more of the Sara Jane thing (Sara Jane Moore, that is; it’s the story of her grandmother’s friendship with the woman who tried to shoot President Gerald Ford in 1975 — a few weeks after Squeaky Fromme’s attempt).

Well, so that is my letter today; I will stick to the five-day-a-week schedule except for the weekends, when I may write only once or now and then not at all. I figure that is doable.
Now I have some more books to read, and for my birthday, Karen is taking us to Dixie, the new Southern-style restaurant in the Presidio …

So much more to say, always, but that is enough for now.
Best
cary t.

p.s. In matters of literary taste, I am not a bold leader and discoverer. Although I am indeed quite a strange individual, and though my real tastes will be often outlandishly avant-garde, I wait until someone else expresses a taste, a like or dislike, and then I second it. I am a seconder.

But it is also true that I am one of those people who does not like anyone who has too much success or gets too much attention, and if someone wins the Nobel Prize I am sure to get on him for something. This also, I suspect, comes from being a middle child: You are taking food off my plate, sir, if you become too big in the world. We must share. I, too, want some of the limelight. Not all, like you are taking; just my share. (Yes, I know how absurd this is, I who have never published a novel or play or even short story in a big magazine. I live a “literary” life wholly divorced from observable truth. It is one of the small luxuries of having no literary success: You are free to imagine your status in any way you please.)

Anyway, I am hungry. I want to go to dinner.