Are you a writer of place?

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You can’t take Faulkner out of Mississippi even in your head, Fitzgerald always feels East Coast, Carolyn See is all West Coast. Marquez colors everything about the way I see South America and I cannot think of Indochine, now Vietnam without thinking about Duras. Colette writes of France and French men and women in a way that makes you want to sleep with the women and forget about the men.

I moved from the East Coast partly because I did not think I could be a writer there. I thought I needed wide open spaces. I went to Colorado first where the sky was already very big and there I thought I could be a writer, but it didn’t work out for me. I was too far from the ocean and I wanted to know there was a large body of water nearby and have access to the sea.

I wrote some in Arizona but there were too many cacti, I tried San Diego for a visit, but after walking around the zoo and having many sailors ask me if I wanted a drink, I felt there were too many sailors.

I began to wonder if I would ever find my own perfect writing place. Everyone I went there were either too many insects biting me—in New England, or too many snakes in Florida, too many rednecks in Missouri, too many racists in Virginia, I couldn’t think straight, too many cacti in Arizona, too many sailors in San Diego, I was the Goldilocks of writers until I moved to Southern California. Where it was often too hot, but never too cold, often too dry, but never too wet, a lot of sky but not too much, an unbearably large ocean, but I could bear it, freeways stacked up against that sky, so much money and such brutal poverty. I spent days that first summer talking to homeless people in Santa Monica because I was quite sure I might be living there someday and because I wanted to know them. I gave them cupcakes last week, I like to bring bread or cookies. There are always crowds of homeless people lying against the stark palm trees by the ocean and by the tourists walking to the pier, by Ivy at the Shore. There are hours on the freeway, and in the mess I’ve done a bit of writing although with some discipline, I could have done a lot more. For now at least, this is my writing place. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right. But I will write in Greece this summer; that’s my other place.

Published in: on June 12, 2014 at 3:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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