grist

 

Saturday, January 03, 2004
The Rope Eater is, as they say, in stores now and I could pretend some sort of aloofness, but it is completely thrilling. Six years of writing on and off (and its constant witherings and resurgences), two years of editing and waiting (mostly waiting), and here we are. Annie Dillard writes well about the fact that no one is ever waiting for a novel--that it could simply not come into being and no one would notice--an observation that persisted stubbornly when I was not making progress on it.

The reviews have been generous and thoughtful, and the response from a range of readers has been great (if you have read it and have thoughts, let me know). The most surprising and compelling part of this time has been the combination of remoteness and intimacy. Writing is such an intimate process--following your own instincts, daring or not to lay out your reflections and ideas, imagining how readers with react to this or that and the steady undercurrent of imagining the book, and yourself, judged as a result of these thousands of solitary decisions; and now it is out there in the world, striking people, or not, moving them, or not. I still somehow do not believe that anyone can read it unless I have placed it in their hands myself and looked them in the eye. And yet I have gotten some wonderful notes from readers (strangers!), who have engaged with the book thoughtfully and deeply, and have responded to things as I hoped they might--or in their own ways that I had not foreseen. And yet they are still in all other ways strangers--so you write back with gratitude, with no idea really what they might be like--what they think and need--what they brought to the book and books and reading, and everything else in the bigger, broader world. It is an odd connection, at once very close and completely anonymous.

I am sure if I were a journalist, or had spent years cranking out short stories, this would just be old hat, and I would have polished up my "author" self in an MFA program and know the postures and speeches. But it feels delightfully new and strange to me, so thank you, anyone who chooses to read the book, and feel free to let me know what you think.



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