Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Winding Down

Been winding down lately. End of book tour, end of semester, end of winter stay in South Florida.

Heading to the mountains of North Carolina in a few weeks. A different world up there, cooler, a lot more peaceful (until late in the summer when the Floridiots arrive in large numbers). My wife is a native Miamian and I've lived here for close to forty years, so we've paid our dues in summertime humidity and other nuisances, such as:

And then there's:

Our area got pretty devastated by Andrew, a category 5. No flooding like Katrina, but 150 plus winds for three or four hours, no power for a month, trees leveled, houses all around us destroyed.

We watched as our interior walls quivered and all the big avocado trees and mangos and Indian rosewood and gumbo limbos went down. It was seven years before we had shade again.

That's when we started looking for a summer place in the mountains.

I do a lot of writing in the summer. I find that looking at South Florida from a distance somehow lets me see it more clearly and vividly, even more fondly. A lot of writers seem to have had this experience, writing better about a place once they're removed from it.

Hemingway wrote wonderful stories about Upper Michigan during his Paris years and wonderful stories about Spain when he lived in Key West. I think there's a certain need that some writers have to be removed, at a distance from their subject in order to write about it. Probably one reason is that there's less interference from the actual daily realities of the place. You can describe it as it seems to be, impressionistically, as you experienced it. That is, you are more free to fictionalize if you aren't wallowing in the daily experience of the place.

I remember Robbe-Grillet that ornery French writer saying that he didn't want to go to the seashore to see how seagull truly flew. He thought that might interfere with the way he'd made them fly in his own novel. I like that.

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