Such and Such Road

11 June 2018:

I had better tell you where I am, and why.

That’s how Joan Didion begins her essay “In the Islands.” And I realize I could tell you where I am. It would be simple. Take such and such road. Turn here. At the gas station, turn left. Follow that road west for three miles. Turn, once more, left. The last cabin on the right. The first bridge. The trailhead with its sign bleached half-white by the sun.

Simple directions, simply told.

But I am not there exactly. Nor am I any place I know of to which you could get by taking such and such road.

This, you see, is about me, and the problem of sitting in one place.

Sure, we know novelists sit for years in the same chair, and, we assume, write a novel. But we also know the novelist—as he or she works—is somewhere else entirely: the land of nod and imagination, tracing the long spoor of story and whatever the old bucket pulls up from memory’s well, putting together an honest effort wrought from years of staying still, managing every day to kick a can a little farther down the street. (Maybe several cans. Maybe several streets.)

What I mean is: I want to sit in this place, down such and such road, past the bridge, beside the last cabin on the right. I want to sit in this place, and talk about this place. But it is not easy—from a novelist’s view, from a journalist’s, from a poet’s—to simply, with all your might, sit in one place.

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