I haven't maintained this blog like I promised I would but it's Thanksgiving Day and I can't help but want to find a space to thank all of the writers who have inspired me and moved me to write, to read, and to live.
From March through October, that person was Robert Olen Butler. Everything he wrote and still writes makes me want to write better, makes me want to experience life more. But, things change and people change and for those reasons, we go in search of new writers or new feelings to replace the old ones and we hope we aren't disappointed because if we are, the old feelings won't fade. It's like how many of Butler's characters, particularly in the Vietnam novels, go from woman to woman, proud of themselves for being faithful for the time that they're faithful, cherishing every moment even if only for a few days or a few weeks. It's their commitment to an idea or a person, the fact that the commitment can even occur, that seems to enliven his characters. From David Fleming searching for his lost son in "On Distant Ground" to Ira Holloway embracing his own martyrdom in "They Whisper," the characters love but they love in their own ways until they can't handle it anymore.
It's that way with reading and maybe it's that I'm getting fickle now that I've turned 34. Or maybe it's that I am trying to allow myself the variation that others so freely engage in. With reading, it's no different. So, because it's Thanksgiving Day, I thank Robert Olen Butler for waking the reader in me and for giving me the courage to read someone else now. I will update my reading list soon to reflect where his fiction fit into my life.
But, right now, Brian Morton is that variation person for me. I'm reading "A Window Across the River" and I'm once again blown away by how sensitive he is to the artist's predicament of how to maintain human connections without letting those connections alter one's art. Can an artist be true to himself and love at the same time? How does love shape what that artist can know and how that artist can express what he knows?
Since reading his novel "Starting out in the Evening" in September, a phrase from the novel has stuck with me and I can't shake it. It's this and I paraphrase:
"Loving someone is not about giving her what she wants, it's about giving her the extras."
On this Thanksgiving day, I'm grateful for Mr. Morton's writing. It's the extra something I've been needing and I recommend it for anyone else in search of the same.