WHICH WAY IS DISTANCE: HOW TO TAKE A CAR RIDE WITH YOUR KIDS

  1. Take the smaller car. The one that you, your wife, your four-year-old, and your two-year-old barely fit into. The one wherein whether in the passenger’s seat or the driver’s and no matter how you position your body your knees are constantly scraping plastic while in the toddler-occupied row behind you the occupants are just-as-constantly kicking the back of your seat, though in their defense despite the knee-scraping forward position of the front seats there is really nowhere else for their feet to go.

 

  1. Take the smaller car because the larger car (the truck) just smells too awful, the result of the return leg of Thursday’s trip to Costco during which the two-year-old dumped his Costco smoothie onto the floor and then screamed and screamed until one of his parents handed him their Costco smoothie, which he then dumped onto the floor.

 

The dumped smoothies having had all day Friday in the parking lot at work to cook, the truck, as stated, just smells too awful.

 

  1. Before departing, take a picture of your children, in their car seats, peacefully reading, or perhaps holding hands and smiling. Post the picture on Facebook.

 

Because you posted this picture on Facebook—no matter what follows—it is now reality. It is what happened.

 

  1. As you depart, know fully-well how this will all end: the last five-minute stretch—that long red light—you and your wife, clean out of books or toys or crackers or smoothies to pass back—attempts to pass objects back now being met with the prompt swatting away of respective object—staring straight ahead slack-jawed and defeated as two-year-old screams and screams and sobs and screams while four-year-old screams and screams for two-year-old to stop.

 

  1. The trip to (zoo/park/library/museum) won’t be bad. Passing books or toys or crackers at this point will be working. At this point, children will be well-rested, well-fed, well-watered.

 

  1. Trip back may be different.

 

  1. One child or the other (or both) will repeatedly (possibly because small, uncoordinated hands or possibly because effing with you—or both) drop book or toy or cracker. From either the passenger’s or the driver’s seat, knees scraping, you will creatively contort your body in order to retrieve the item.

 

If in the driver’s seat—now driving from the position that drivers drive from in movies in which the car being driven is being shot at—you will become rather skilled—because your life and the lives of your family are at stake—at holding your steering wheel hand perfectly steady while with the other hand sweeps the rear floor in search of Batman.

 

If in the passenger’s seat, at some point you will have completely turned around in your seat to retrieve (whatever) from the floor that you will decide to eliminate the preliminary steps in that turning by sitting in your seat sideways—knees now scraping glass, lower back scraping center-console plastic.

 

Your spouse will ask if that is comfortable. You will respond that it isn’t.

 

  1. Sometimes, when two-year-old has the thing that prevents two-year-old from screaming, four-year-old will reach across and steal the thing and then, over two-year-old’s screams, paraphrase The Rolling Stones: “You can’t always have what you want, Sam. Sometimes you just get what you need.” Which, apparently, is nothing.

 

  1. You will start to sing along with the Moana soundtrack (which isn’t your thing at all, but then you have no idea anymore what your thing is because for four years you’ve listened to nothing but Disney soundtracks), but your four-year-old will ask you to please stop singing so he can hear the music.

 

  1. Every time you make a turn, your two-year-old will point the other way and shriek “That way! That way!” at you. You’ll wonder if you can get him voice work at Google Maps.

 

  1. There will be periodic moments of silence, during which you and your spouse will very quietly laugh nervously.

 

  1. Out of nowhere, your two-year-old will demand—by screaming and screaming—that you hold his hand. Hands meeting across the divide will not do. Your hand must be in his lap, holding his. If in passenger’s seat, this will require afore-described contortive turning. If in driver’s seat, this will be physically impossible, you and two-year-old buckled into opposite corners of cabin.

 

In either case, while solving this puzzle, your brain is simultaneously reeling in an attempt to answer your four-year-old’s increasing-in-volume-and-emphasis-with-each-repetition question, “Which way is distance?”

 

“DAADDDYYY!! WHICH WAY IS DISTANCE?!!”

 

  1. You will arrive home, open up the doors, kids and parents and crackers and toys falling out into the driveway, and you will forget all of it.

Trolls, Moana, and Joseph Campbell: A Post About Why I Don’t Rope Anymore, and How I Will Again

Month before last, I read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

 

I even posted on this blog, with vague intent, a quotation from early in the book.

 

I read Hero in preparation for reading John Barth’s Giles Goat-Boy (which is a re-telling of the hero cycle that takes place at a university, the university allegorically representing the entire universe [I am four books into a {project? journey? quest? errand?} of reading {or in some cases re-reading, or re-re-reading} Barth’s entire bibliography, a {p? j? q? e?} that is taking much longer than it should in part due to the fact that I tend to—as I did with H.w.a.T.F and G.G-b.—read other books in preparation for the next book {Barth book after next—Chimera—for example, will be preceded by The Thousand and One Nights <at least some of them> and a chapter or two of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology}, making the process, as stated, a slow one]). But that’s another story.

 

After reading Hero, I started to see the hero cycle, as Campbell describes it, everywhere—first, perhaps, in the movies I have the pleasure of watching over and over and over with my kids.

 

Trolls, for instance: a call to action, a refusal of the call, a helper, crossing the threshold, a herald at the threshold, trials, descent into the underworld (also described by Campbell, in an allusion to Jonah, as descent into the belly of the whale, and, in the case of Trolls, symbolized literally by being swallowed, or the threat thereof), emergence from the underworld (into, in Trolls, a tree at world’s center much like Campbell’s World Navel), and crossing back over the threshold with the elixir (in this case, love…or dancing…or something) that will save the world or the village or the family or the whatever.

 

Or, Moana: see list above, minus the parentheticals.

 

But Campbell’s purpose was not to help us see the similarities between heroes or between animated films. The purpose of Hero is to help us better understand ourselves.

 

Hero myths sprouted up in ancient civilizations all over the planet, many featuring the same characteristics, just as hero-driven films and TV shows continue to sprout up with many of the same characteristics. It’s not a coincidence. Or collusion. It’s simply that those characteristics are part of the human subconscious.

 

The story of Odysseus’s return to Ithaca, or Siddhartha’s path to enlightenment, is the story of every one of us—the subconscious journey of our psyche.

 

So the universal story mirrors the individual story.

 

In 1993, at fifteen years old, I started team roping. I high school rodeoed, but I wasn’t very good.

 

I had a good foundation, though. I’d learned to rope horns from a header who’d been to the National Finals the year before, and because of this foundation (reinforced by roping the dummy on average a hundred times a day for the next ten years), I kept getting better.

 

So from 15 years old to 30 years old I did almost nothing else other than roping (and cared about little else, too).

 

I went from high school rodeo to college rodeo. In college, I still wasn’t good enough, but I was getting better. During college, I found a sort of mentor who straightened out my roping quite a bit.

 

At around 25 years old, after lots and lots and lots of at-bats, I got to a point where I could win pretty consistently at the amateur rodeos and win a little bit at the pro rodeos in California.

 

Team roping was my life, and year-by-year life was getting better.

 

But life life—the part of life that I knew was real life but about which I couldn’t’ve cared less—life life was getting worse and worse.

 

Throughout my twenties, I had no steady job, and therefore no steady income—in fact, what jobs I had were primarily for the purpose of generating funds for future entry fees (or for paying past due entry fees [and fines]).

 

Every possession of consequence—truck, trailer, horses, etc.—was borrowed, or had been handed over. I survived thanks to family and close friends and their repeated charitable donations to what was ultimately an unworthy cause. To what, actually, was not a cause at all.

 

This, of course, was unsustainable.

 

And the life I was living was unfulfilling. I was not happy.

 

[Note: This is not in any way to say that a life of roping cannot be fulfilling; it is only to say that the life of roping that I was choosing to live was unfulfilling.]

Here’s an anecdote, to demonstrate: In 2001, I went to a college rodeo in Ogden, UT. I traveled with a friend and another friend. The rodeo performances were at night, and during the day, they had ropings. I spent all my money at the ropings. Every penny. On the way home, we stopped to eat at Boomtown. I either ordered something cheap, or I ate off of my friends’ plates. I don’t remember, but as we left, I was still hungry. On a vacated table we walked by was the uneaten half of a pastrami sandwich. I picked it up and ate it, right there on the spot. As my friends were paying, a man and woman came up to the counter. The woman asked where her husband’s sandwich was. They wanted to take it with them. The host had seen me eat it. He told on me. I went and hid behind a slot machine. The woman was angry. The husband calmed her down. He said to her: “Honey, a man’s gotta eat.”

Life was like that. Every day.

 

The changes began when I got a job. A real job. A career. I was 27. I started teaching high school English full time.

 

I had always thought I would be an English teacher, but I had always thought of it as the thing I would do after roping. But, financial necessity sped things up.

 

They were going to pay me just under $40,000 a year to teach English. The figure was mind-boggling. At the time, roping was still my life, so I of course viewed this new career through that lens: seemingly unlimited entry fee and fuel money, and lots of time off to rope (afternoons, weekends, spring break, summer break).

 

During my first year as a teacher, I still practiced three of four nights a week, and I still went to a roping (or two) every weekend. In the spring and summer, I went to two or three or four rodeos every weekend.

 

And I was still broke. And I still had nothing.

 

And I was a terrible teacher, as most first-year teachers are.

 

And then it happened: I fell in love.

 

I found my light, my love, my partner, and (in Campbellian terms) my helper.

 

I had found my life, and it was a life overflowing with joy and adventure. I was fulfilled, and I was happy.

 

Over the next eight years, that life grew and grew. There are now four of us, and it is a life of warmth and smiles and laughs and hugs.

 

Naturally, as this new life grew, that other life—roping life—diminished. I didn’t love roping any less, I just loved someone else so much more.

 

To my closest friends in that other life, the fact that I no longer rope (at all) is probably irreconcilable with the (often monomaniacal) person that they knew. They may chalk it up to: married a city girl, moved to town, quit roping. But that is not the story.

 

My crossing the threshold moment came when our first son was around one-year-old: I sold my horse.

 

More accurately, I sold my most recent horse (having, from the ages of 15 to 36, been in possession of dozens and dozens of rope horses [often two or three or four at a time], all loaned out [or, more accurately, handed over] by the aforementioned charitable parties [mostly parents and/or step-parents], including the just-mentioned most-recent).

 

At that point—though I was roping much much less then than I had been before—I became, for the first time in just over twenty years, a non-roper.

 

The hero cycle is about change. It can be represented graphically as a circle with a horizontal line running through it. Crossing the threshold of the first line, followed by descending down into the belly of the whale—the bottom of the circle—and then emerging to ascend up the circle’s other side. For the hero, this represents a rebirth, literal or figurative, and for the individual subconscious, it represents the figurative death of a former self and rebirth of a new self.

 

I sold my horse because he was twenty-years old, and I wasn’t roping enough to keep him in good shape. I was also at a crossroads, so to speak. I had one very young child, and one on the way. I could keep my horse, and/or get a new horse, and keep roping, even only occasionally. Which would’ve meant, occasionally, that A) I spent entire days away from my (pregnant) wife and very young child(ren), or B) I would drag them all along with me, and instead of spending a Saturday doing something together, like going to the zoo, they would be present while I did something. What seemed better was option C) Wait until my boys were older.

 

Added to that was the fact that my wife had decided to take leave from work and stay home to raise our kids, which she has done for the past two years. So we went from two teacher incomes (each now approaching double that mind-boggling figure dropped on me at 27) to one. So selling my horse and thereby eliminating at least significant (and recurring) source of expense seemed an appropriate sacrifice given Liz’s—Liz being a fantastic teacher and a program specialist and a published author—even greater sacrifice of her career.

 

Once reborn, the hero, or subconscious, is then equipped to discover the elixir that will lead to (resolution? victory? enlightenment? bliss?)

 

I had found my elixir. It was my (growing) family.

 

And that elixir had provided me a new life.

 

But there is an additional leap that must be made in Campbell’s cycle. Once the elixir is discovered, and the new life is being lived, the hero—or individual—must be willing to cross the second threshold—that other end of the line on the other side of the circle, beyond which is the original point of departure.

 

The hero—elixir in hand—returns to that original point of departure, but now approaches as a new, reborn person.

 

In Trolls, the only thing that will make the bad guys and the bad-guy-king happy was eating a troll. That changes thanks to the elixir (again: in this case love…or dancing), and afterwards the bad guys and their king don’t need to eat a troll to be happy. They have love. And dancing.

 

For a long time about the only thing that made me happy was winning. A distant second was spinning one off pretty fast but having my heeler miss, or rope a leg. But, for the most part, happiness came from winning.

 

Though I’m now a non-roper, the plan has never been to remain a non-roper. Two weeks ago, we officially became a two-income family again. The boys are getting older. But when I cross that second threshold and return to roping, it will be as a new man. I look forward to re-approaching my former life from a position at which my life and my happiness is not affirmed by the outcome of a roping. We’ll see.

 

Water that Smelled Like Poop: A Summer Wish List

In seven days, summer will be over. Seven weeks ago, the time seemed unlimited. At that time, we made a summer wish list. It went like this:

  • Plant a garden.
  • Read 50 new books (the kids, not us).
  • Go to aquarium.
  • Go to Santa Cruz.
  • Grow flowers.
  • Go to a National Park.
  • See the redwoods or sequoias.
  • Go camping.
  • Ride horses.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to a beach.
  • See a Ports game.
  • Go fishing.
  • Go to Exploratorium.
  • Learn 20 new sight words (again: the kids, not us)
  • Go to Oakland Zoo.
  • See fireworks.

 

With seven days to go, the only items not crossed off are: Go to a National Park, Go fishing, and Go to Exploratorium.

 

Tom (our 4-year-old) and I are planning to fish this weekend when we go camping (for the second time—the first time having been a trial run in the backyard), so, wish-list-wise, we’ve done pretty well.

 

Here are some highlights:

 

  • We planted a garden. I made an eight-cinder-block by four-cinder-block garden and we planted seeds for carrots and peppers and green onions and transplanted a tomato plant. None of the seeds grew. Too much shade. But the tomato plant, in one corner, is doing fine.

 

  • Tom “read” well over 50 new books this summer. He doesn’t actually read read. We read to him, mostly. But then he can read some of his books, or can read them back to us, in part via memorization and in part because he knows a lot of sight words, twenty new of which he learned this summer.

 

[Note: I can claim no credit for all of the sight words that Tom knows. That is all thanks to Liz, who is a wonderful mother who diligently does homework with him, makes flashcards, games, etc. Our sliding glass door, for example, is currently covered with taped-up words which Tom can move around to make sentences.]

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I bought him a box set of Shakespeare stories for kids at Costco. It was on sale. Now he’s into Shakespeare. He likes the comedies, but his favorite is Macbeth. He recites the opening lines. He asked for a Macbeth birthday party. Asked several times, actually, but he’s since settled on a superhero birthday party and a Macbeth Halloween party. By the way, there’s less stuff on Pinterest for a Macbeth birthday party than there is for a superhero birthday party (which isn’t to say there’s nothing).

 

[Note: I don’t actually know anything about Pinterest. But Liz does, and for the past four years she has thrown one amazing birthday after another.]

 

  • Our aquarium trip was to the California Academy of Science. The California Academy of Science was awesome; the kids loved it. The problem was that we went to said academy on the day of the Warriors’ victory parade, which we thought would be okay if we avoided Oakland, which we did, but despite avoiding Oakland all veins (in the morning) to the Bay Area and (in the afternoon) all arteries out of it were clogged such that a trip that was meant to start after breakfast and end at naptime actually ended around dinner time.

 

 

  • We went to Santa Cruz—specifically the boardwalk—this past weekend. The boardwalk is sort of an interesting experiment—especially in contrast to, say, somewhere like Disneyland—of an amusement park at which there really isn’t much security—anyone can walk in and out as they please—and the park is seemingly operated by a band of high school students on their summer break (go ahead: go there and see how long it takes you to find an employee that can vote).

 

But the result of the experiment is that it all works out just fine. The place is tons of fun. Tom especially liked the log ride. And our kids are too young to notice the pot smell blended into the ocean air.

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Here’s a fun story: Near the end of our trip, Sam (the two-year-old) got into one of those moods in which he demanded to be held. Around the same time, he pooped, and the essence of said poop sort of seeped through his swim diaper and through his shorts—both wet from the salty brine—and onto my arm. I’m not saying I had poop on my arm. More like water that smelled like poop. Added to which Sam is now too big to carry on one arm for too long, so by the time we vacated the boardwalk and made our way back to the truck, where awaited the diaper bag—I having earlier been sent ahead to load all of our stuff before one more trip up and down the boardwalk—each of my forearms smelled like a septic tank. Hashtag parenting.

This is What Happens When Two English Teachers Raise a Child

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TWO ENGLISH TEACHERS RAISE A CHILD:

 

4-year-old, to preschool teacher, upon arrival Monday morning:  “I have a Macbeth speech.”

 

Preschool teacher: “What?”

 

4-year-old: “I have a Macbeth speech.”

 

Preschool teacher: “You have a Macbeth speech?”

 

4-year-old: “Yes.”

 

Preschool teacher: “Can I hear it?”

 

4-year-old: “When shall we thwee meet again,/In thwunder, lightning, ow in wain,/When the huwly-buwly’s done,/When the battle’s lost and won!

 

FIVE MINUTES LATER:

 

Mom, in reference to sunflower plants sprouting from small pots: “Can you tell me about these?”

 

4-year-old: “Oh. That’s science.” [Walks away]

 

Conversations with a Four-year-old

VARIOUS UNRELATED LINES OF DIALOGUE FROM CONVERSATIONS WITH A 4-YEAR-OLD:

 

4-year-old, to parents: “I read in the newspaper yesterday that children should stop taking medicine.”

 

*

 

4-year old, to Mom: “I remember everything you ever told me.”

Mom: “You do?”

4-year-old: “Yes.”

Mom: “What did I tell you on January 12th?”

4-year-old: “‘Don’t be disgruntled.’”

 

*

 

Dad (me) to 4-year-old and/or his 2-year-old brother (at least once a day): “Pants on! Pants ON!”

 

*

 

4-year-old, to Dad: “I don’t want to be brined.”

 

*

 

Dad, or Mom, to 4-year-old, and/or his 2-year-old brother, on more than one occasion: “That’s not a bludgeon!”

 

*

 

4-year-old, in car: “Everyone in America has a bottom. And everyone with a bottom is in America.” [Fact check: False.]

 

*

 

Mom: “Do you have a headache?”

4-year-old: “Yeah.”

Mom: “Where does it hurt?”

4-year-old: “Here.”

Mom: “How does it feel?”

4-year-old: “Like banana split. And poison.”

 

*

 

Mom, or Dad, to 4-year-old, weekly: “If you’re going to wrestle the baby, take your shoes off.”

 

*

 

Mom: “You will be punish-ed.”

4-year-old: “Don’t you mean banish-ed?”

[Feeling of satisfaction from parents re: Shakespeare reference made by 4-year-old.]

Mom [minutes later]: “Stop rhyming Banish-ed with Poo-poo head.”

George Saunders

In the spring of 2008, I stood alone in a mostly empty hallway at Franklin High School, laughing out loud. There were a few people around, coming and going. They looked at me, as they came and went, in exactly the way you would expect someone to look at someone who was standing alone in a mostly empty hallway and laughing out loud.

 

I didn’t notice, though, or didn’t care. I was reading George Saunders’s 2000 story collection, Pastoralia, specifically the title story Pastoralia.

 

I was a teacher at Franklin High, just finishing my second year. I didn’t normally stand alone in mostly-empty hallways, reading. I had a classroom. But it was state testing time, and I was a rover.

 

Last week, I finished my tenth year at Franklin (of eleven years as a full-time teacher, one of those years spent elsewhere). Also last week, I read George Saunders’s first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, released earlier this year.

 

Though I’m not sure of the exact timeline, it wasn’t too long after reading Pastoralia and laughing out loud in the hallway in 2008, maybe even that same afternoon, that I started writing what would eventually become my MFA thesis and later my first (and so far, only) published novel, Parnucklian for Chocolate.

 

Those first-produced pages, though not nearly as good as Pastoralia, represented an attempt to emulate the unnamed qualities of Pastoralia that had made me laugh out loud in a mostly-empty hallway—to “sound” like Pastoralia, and to “sound” like Saunders.

 

The following paragraph—one of the first I wrote of Parnucklian—is an example of a paragraph that, though not as good as Saunders, attempts to sound like Saunders:

 

“The planet Parnuckle,” Josiah’s mother would often continue, “which is the home planet of your father, and therefore is your home as well, will always be your home, even though you have never been there, and possibly never will, but it will always be there as your home, because it is the home of your father, just like this home, which is my home, and also your home, is also your home, even if you grow up and move far away, as long as you live, or unless I move to another home, but then that home will also be your home. Your father, on the other hand, will never leave Parnuckle, so that will not be an issue. Of course, that’s not quite fair, as it’s comparing a house on a planet to a planet. I, likewise, will never leave this planet, nor will this house, or any house I may be living in, either in the future or whenever.”

 

Five springs later, at the 2013 AWP Conference in Boston, the week of Parnucklian’s release, I told George Saunders, who had happened to sit down at the same otherwise-empty common area table as me, first politely asking my permission—I, staring up at George Saunders, initially unable to respond, eventually doing so in eighth-grade-girl-meets-lead-singer-of-favorite-band fashion—in the first of two conversations I have had with George Saunders (one digital, one not; description of latter commencing, former forthcoming—said conversation being one that George Saunders probably immediately forgot but that for me has become a commonly repeated anecdote) that (predicate of current sentence now proceeding) when I had written early drafts of just-released-novel-I-was-there-in-Boston-to-promote I had been reading a lot of his work, specifically Pastoralia, and that, at least in the early drafts, I had tried to “sound” like him, specifically like Pastoralia.

 

He had responded that that was fine.

 

Reading Pastoralia in 2008 had not been my first encounter with Saunders’s work. In 2000, while at Cal Poly, I took a fiction writing course that, for a few reasons, would be fairly influential in regards to my later becoming a creative writing grad-student and fiction writer, one of those reasons being exposure to writers of literary fiction the likes to which I had never been exposed before—had never before read literary fiction, in fact before taking this class had never even heard of literary fiction—such as TC Boyle, Lorrie Moore, and the recently-departed Denis Johnson. And also George Saunders. Of the first three, our instructor assigned books—If the River was Whiskey, Self-help, and Jesus’ Son, respectively—but of Saunders the instructor gave us Xeroxed copies of The Barber’s Unhappiness. I’d never read anything like it. I immediately wrote a terrible now-lost story that tried to copy it (around that same time, I also wrote a lot of terrible now-lost stories that tried to copy the stories in Jesus’ Son).

 

Half-a-dozen years later, I stumbled across another Saunders story: Sticks. The story would later be collected in his 2013 book, The Tenth of December, but back then the story was just on his website, which looked exactly the way websites used to look in the mid-aughts.

 

By then I had started teaching. I copied the story into a Word document. Back then, I used to spend my lunch break eating cheeseburgers and sort-of-frantically searching for something to do with the next two classes. That day, I used Sticks, and over the next eleven years I would use the story in a variety of different lessons. It was perfect for it: short (just two paragraphs) but meaty.

 

In 2013, at AWP, after the awkward silence that had followed George Saunders telling me that it was fine that at least in early drafts of my recently-released-novel-I-was-there-to-promote I had tried to “sound” like him, I told George Saunders that it had been nice to see that Sticks had been included in the new book. I then proceeded, in a sort of confession, to tell George Saunders that over the previous seven years I had without permission or payment made hundreds and hundreds of copies of his story Sticks and had distributed the story to hundreds and hundreds of teenagers for use in a variety of different lessons, it being a perfect fit for such: so short but so meaty.

 

He, who is every bit as nice as everyone says he is, responded that that was fine.

 

In fact, he wrote his email address in my AWP program and told me to have students email him if they had any questions about the story.

 

In 2015, when my wife, who is also a teacher and whom I met at Franklin High and who over the past decade has also used Sticks in a variety of different lessons, and I spent three months co-authoring a book on teaching literature in high school, we included a lesson on Sticks (this time paying for permission).

 

Before the book’s publication, our editor had instructed us to seek out blurbs and a foreword.

 

We sent emails to a lot of education-y people. But we also thought: why not email the famous living authors of stories we had referenced in the book. So we emailed Junot Díaz and George Saunders. We wrote what we considered to be a professional but folksy message with plenty of flattery aimed at the recipient.

 

Junot Díaz did not respond. But George Saunders did.

 

He said that he couldn’t tell us how much he appreciated us teaching Sticks. He said that he wished he could be more helpful, but he didn’t have time to write a foreword or a blurb. He said that he was writing like mad.

 

I replied by thanking him for his response. And I said that as one of his devoted readers, I was looking forward to whatever it was that he was working on.

 

He was working on Lincoln in the Bardo, which I read last week, in three days (I don’t normally read books in three days—more like three months; in fact, I hadn’t yet read the book, which Liz had bought me for Valentine’s Day, because it took me all those months to finish reading John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor).

 

Lincoln in the Bardo is fabulous. It’s different—definitely a bit weird—but good. You should read it. Sometimes, it’s very, very sad. But at other times it’s very funny. It may even make you laugh out loud.