The parade passed by, turned around on itself, and straggled back up Prince Street. I thought maybe I had a chance at devotion. Now the Macedonia Chamber of Commerce made the turn and marched by, eight men in identical tan hats and overcoats. They looked like a set of matching boy dolls, only embarrassed. Jottie chuckled and flapped her little flag. Jottie drew in a sharp breath, and I saw two spots of pink appear on her cheeks. She started to put up her hand, let it drop, and then changed her mind and lifted it in a little wave. Nothing happened, so I gave her a poke.
It was Mrs. Jungle Gardenia. I whirled around, wondering who she was and how she knew my father. She caught my stare and wiggled her drawn-on eyebrows at me.
I turned back to Jottie quick. That was all right with me.
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My favorite part came after, anyway. I dearly loved to walk down a street with my aunt Jottie. When I went alone, I was a child, and grown-ups ignored me accordingly. Beneath notice, as they say in books. When I walked with Jottie, it was a different matter. Grown-ups greeted me politely, and that was nice. That was real pleasant. Those were moments of purest satisfaction to me. Because when she told me those secrets, Jottie made me something better than just a temporary grown-up. She made me her confidante.
We were strolling up the street when we came upon Mr. Tare Russell in his bath chair. Russell, but there was something the matter with him, and he had to be rolled around town with a blanket over his knees. In fact, he almost interrupted her, he spoke so quick. Russell, bunching up his mouth. You just tell your daddy that, would you? I took a step backward.
Russell waggled his fingers again. She lived down the street from us, and she talked all the time. She started up before we could even see her. Now she was swinging the shoe back and forth. Vogel was standing nervously in his doorway, waiting to grab her if she walked away with his sandal.
So did Mr.
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So did I. Jottie gazed at Marjorie Lanz for a moment, and then she leaned close. She looked suspiciously at Mr. Does it come in blue? Well, Marjorie, Willa and I had better be getting along. A lady. You were sitting right there on the bed. I was usually reading.
What would you say The Truth According to Us is about? On the other hand, I, like every other author in the world, had intentions. In my opinion, The Truth According to Us is about: 1. When I have one of these encounters, I try to pin it down by scribbling a note to myself, which invariably reads, when I come upon it later, like a telegram from the French Resistance. Do you now regret any of the lost elements?
Which ones? Most of the lost elements deserved to die. One or two should never have seen the light of day in the first place. But I do regret a few of the lost stories about Jottie, Felix, and Vause as children and teenagers. There are some in the book, there are plenty in the book, and yet—-when I flip through the pages, I still expect to find the bit about Vause getting a black eye.
More than anything, though, I miss St. He was a very full, very American character to me, and I was quite fond of him. There was a story about him at an American Everlasting picnic in that I mourn, though I know in my heart it had no real place in the larger story I was trying to tell.
Excellent question! So you could say that geometrically, writing for kids is similar to writing for adults. Everything else is different. The differences come in various sizes: small, medium, and large. For example, word choice. I consider this to be small, as problems go. So what? But the biggest difference, the gaping chasm, between writing for these two audiences is what they want when they pick up a book. Lucky them. Lucky them, except this is precisely why reading is hard for kids: every time they pick up a book, it could be anything.
If, after all this, the book still remains opaque, the potential reader can break down and read the first page. That way they know what to expect. And that, right there, is the problem. After all their detective work, adults are outraged if the book turns out to be different than they expected. In some cases, their criterion for judging the book is whether it conformed to their expectations, which is really quite odd when you think about it, and quite beside the point. Whom or what do you find most inspiring as a writer?
Funny you should ask. This has changed a lot over time. When I was young, I was inspired by beautiful writing. You know, exquisite, luminous, original writing. To which I now say, Feh. Bridge, by Evan S. Connell, is an example of writing that impresses me this way. Hilary Mantel is the gold standard in this regard, but her imagination has something almost otherworldly about it.
I wish I did. It is almost unbelievable now to think of the federal government of the United States funding a program to employ writers. Its mere unfathomability makes it moving. They are fascinating documents of a now almost entirely lost regionalism. The writers who worked for the project fulminated against it incessantly, as writers are apt to do when someone tells them what, when, and how to write.
It keeps them from being precious about themselves in later life. In the Romeyn family tree at the front of The Truth According to Us, the reader learns that the first Romeyn child, a boy, died as an infant. This child is never mentioned in the book; why was it necessary to record his presence at all?
What a good question! I documented the brief life of the first Romeyn son in order to explain more fully the development of the second. Why is Felix the way he is? Why does he believe he has the right to require fealty from the people he loves? Why is he incapable of acknowledging weakness? These qualities of his have complicated origins, but I wanted to hint that one of the tributaries was a mother who believed that his existence was both infinitely precarious and her deliverance.
One of the persistent themes of The Truth According to Us is that all narrators recast history to suit their own purposes. Did you do this, too? That is, did you knowingly alter any facts in the service of story? I did. Since Macedonia is an imaginary town, its history is necessarily imaginary, as is its geography. Likewise, though the larger historical events that occurred in Macedonia are fictional, I tried to accommodate them to actual events.
These are what I consider fabrications.
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They all have to do with movies. Your first book was published when you were in your late thirties. If you were allowed a redo, would you start writing earlier? In my perfect life, I subtract , which gets me started writing a year earlier.
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Maybe I subtract , too. Nothing good happened in I could have saved a lot of time if I had just learned everything faster. Do you think that your experience as a book editor has had an effect on your writing career? My very first editorial job was on a newspaper, where I was taught to regard text in pretty much the same way a plumber regards a pipe: pragmatically, as in how many inches do I have to write to fill the hole on page 6? This destroyed my reverent view of the Writer as Transcendent Being, which was probably a good thing. My second job, as a copy editor, taught me how to rip apart a sentence and put it back together again.
After a few years working in the salt mines of textbook publishing, I went to work for a publisher specializing in illustrated books, where I was both an acquiring editor and the managing editor, in charge of scheduling for the entire house. This means that I was on both the acquisition and the production sides of publishing, which provided me with a very broad education.
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