Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer. And, long after you’ve become a writer, reading books others write–and rereading the beloved books of the past–constitutes an irresistible distraction from writing. Distraction. Consolation. Torment. And yes, inspiration.
I’ve been reading Joan Didion, or to be more accurate, rereading Joan Didion these last few nights, the book being her collection of essays Slouching Towards Bethlehem which is one of my all-time favorite collections of essays by an American writer, and I thought I might post an excerpt from one of her pieces but I’ll be damned if I could pick one excerpt because I just keep wanting to post the whole book. It is better than I remember and I remember it quite fondly, having read it now for the fourth time over these long decades since I first stumbled upon Play It As It Lays back in the early 1970s. One of the profs in the MFA program had it in a course he called First Novels but the books were not first novels (Ismael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo and Tom McGuane’s 92 In The Shade as other…
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Perhaps the street I’ve gone into and come out of
for so many years will no longer look at my face
nor even remember my name. . .
the sky I carry over my head,
the table at which I have my meals, the bed that gives me haven,
the worries I can’t do away with
to all of them I should bid farewell
say good-bye to all of them at the dawn of this day.
And I should bid welcome my darling
with your face, hands, and voice
to all things that sparkle in my blood.
translated by Talat S. Halman
Fog moistens both wings
But the wind allows no dallying
O shore, beloved shore
We parted just yesterday
And you are here again today
Tomorrow at a different latitude
We shall meet along my course
Remember the storm, the lighthouse
That brought us together
Another storm, a different light
Drove us asunder again
Even though morning or evening
Sky and ocean stand between us
You are always on my voyage
I am always in your sight
translated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin