Tassajaraandbackthensandiegosday’s Childe

Miles driven this week: 912

Pages edited at Tassajara: 209

Temperature high at Tassajara: 63

Fifth grade promotions attended: 1

Books read: 3

Deer seen: 1

Loads of laundry done: 4

Pages written in notebook: 18

Cane’s chicken fingers eaten: 4

Desks cleaned off: 0

Rejections received: 1

Days of bootcamp skipped: 2


Ten or So Favorite Books

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Mariette in Ecstasy: Ron Hanson
  • If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things: Jon McGregor
  • The Shipping News: Annie Proulx
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Milan Kundera
  • Ulysses: James Joyce
  • I Sailed with Magellan: Stuart Dybek
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: Carson McCullers
  • The Things they Carried: Tim O’Brien
  • The Master and Margarita: Mikhail Bulgakov
  • A Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole
  • Middlemarch: George Eliot
  • The House on Mango Street: Sandra Cisneros



Queen’s Ferry Press Reading at Book Soup, Los Angeles

I’m reading at Book Soup tomorrow evening for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best Small Fictions of 2015 Anthology. On the roster are fellow West Coast writers, Lauren Becker, Yennie Cheung, and Chris Terry. Hope to see some familiar faces in the audience…

BSF Cover_print

Ten Books that Matter to Me

I Hate to See that Evening Sun go Down by William Gay
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor
That They May Face the Rising Sun by John McGahern
I am Somebody by Nuala O’Faolain
House of Prayer No. 2 by Mark Richard
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Tóibín
Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews

Up the Staircase Review of Blood a Cold Blue

Delighted to find a fine review of Blood a Cold Blue at Up the Staircase Quarterly this weekend. Back in 2011, this was the venue for my first published piece of creative writing, “Bingo Night.” I’m grateful to April Michelle Bratten for launching my writing onto the waters and for the generous review of my collection.

Blood a Cold Blue cover updated

On first looking into Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude

I was 21 when I first encountered Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, and it was loaned to me by my tennis friend, Joseph O’Dwyer. He’d returned from America, where he was playing tennis on scholarship at North Kentucky University, and all his talk was of Bolivian Marching Powder, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”

“You’ve got to read this,” he told me, just before he flew back to Highland Heights and another year of college tennis. We’d spent the summer playing marathon games of chess in his back garden, running drills on the courts a hundred yards away at St. Mary’s Tennis Club, and talking books and movies. Before he flew off, a dog-eared copy of Solitude was thrown at me, and a farewell until the following summer. I promised to read the book, let him know what I thought of it.

I read the first sentence, scratched my head, and buried the book under a pile of laundry in my bedroom. Nonsense. Yes, I couldn’t make head nor tail of the thing. Instead, I re-read Stephen King’s It, and Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and forgot about Marquez and Macondo.

Sometime after I broke up with the girlfriend I was seeing at the time, I cleaned out my bedroom and found Joe’s copy of the book, cobweb-covered and more yellowed than when he’d given it to me. Lovelorn, I opened the cover again, read those first sentences, “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.” Whether it was my broken heart, or the chill of an Irish winter, something resonated with me and I ended up turning page after page, through the night, until sometime around 3AM I reached the last sentence and held my breath. Oh, the epiphany of those words, the completion of Marquez’ circular narrative:

Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.

Now, so many years later, I re-read the book every year or two, delving once more into the mad waters of Marquez’ narrative river. There’s a comfort in this novel, a remembrance of a youthful time when tennis and chess and movies and books and pubs was the be-all and end-all of my life. For those reasons I found the news of Marquez’ death today to be devastating, as if a part of my soul had shut down and gone out of business. And in a way it has. But, I’ll always have the words to return to and savor anew. Godspeed, Maestro, Godspeed.

(Quotations from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

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