A five-hour flight works out to three days and nights on land, by rail, from sea to shining sea. You can chalk off the hours on the back of the seat ahead. But seventy-some hours will not seem so long to you if you tell yourself first: This is where I am going to be for the rest of my natural life.
I think of the chimp, the one with the talking hands. In the course of the experiment, that chimp had a baby. Imagine how her trainers must have thrilled when the mother, without prompting, began to sign her newborn. Baby, drink milk. Baby, play ball. And when the baby died, the mother stood over the body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal grace, forming again and again the words: Baby, come hug, Baby come hug, fluent now in the language of grief.
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The worst of it is over now, and I can't say that I am glad. Lose that sense of loss-you have gone and lost something else. But the body moves toward health. The mind, too, in steps. One step at a time. Ask a mother who has just lost a child, How many children do you have? "Four, " she will say, "-three, " and years later, "Three, " she will say, "-four.
The worst of it is over now, and I can't say that I am glad. Lose that sense of loss""you have gone and lost something else. But the body moves toward health. The mind, too, in steps. One step at a time. Ask a mother who has just lost a child, How many children do you have? "Four," she will say, """three," and years later, "Three," she will say, """four.
All those years on the psychiatrist's couch and suddenly the couch is moving. Good God, she is on that couch when the big one hits. Maidy didn't tell you, but you know what her doctor said? She sprang from the couch and said, "My God, was that an earthquake?" The doctor said this: "Did it feel like an earthquake to you?
It was like that class at school where the teacher talks about Realization, about how you could realize something big in a commonplace thing. The example he gave--and the liar said it really happened--was that once while drinking orange juice, he'd realized he would be dead someday. He wondered if we, his students, had had similar 'realizations.' Is he kidding? I thought. Once I cashed a paycheck and I realized it wasn't enough. Once I had food poisoning, and realized I was trapped inside my body.
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Then the children went to bed, or at least went upstairs, and the men joined the women for a cigarette on the porch, absently picking ticks engorged like grapes off the sleeping dogs. And when the men kissed the women good night, and their weekend whiskers scratched the women's cheeks, the women did not think shave, they thought stay.
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I told him about the way they get to know you. Not the way people do, the way they flatter you by wanting to know every last thing about you, only it isn't a compliment, it is just efficient, a person getting more quickly to the end of you. Correction - dogs do want to know every last thing about you. They take in the smell of you, they know from the next room, asleep, when a mood settles over you. The difference is there's not an end to it.
Journalism taught me how to write a sentence that would make someone want to read the next one. You are trained to get rid of anything nonessential. You go in, you start writing your article, assuming a person's going to stop reading the minute you give them a reason. So the trick is: don't give them one.
I know when a story is finished when there is not a single thing more I can think to do to it. And since I know at the start what the last line will be, I know when I've reached that point as logically as I can that it's finished. As for the rewriting-it's not foolproof, of course, but if you're honest about having thought of every possibility and you still come back to what you have, what more can you do?
I have written letters that are failures, but I have written few, I think, that are lies. Trying to reach a person means asking the same question over and over again: Is this the truth, or not? I begin this letter to you, then, in the western tradition. If I understand it, the western tradition is: Put your cards on the table.
I started writing by doing small related things but not the thing itself, circling it and getting closer. I had no idea how to write fiction. So I did journalism because there were rules I could learn. You can teach someone to write a news story. They might not write a great one, but you can teach that pretty easily.