Well, like Rhian, I haven't been reading much either--not even the internet, which is otherwise a mainstay of those times I can't concentrate on a book. But I have been getting my fill of stories this week from our old friend Steve Murray, who is in town to hang out and help us with our move.
Steve is a fine writer, but what he does more of is talking. He's a master of anecdotes, an inspiration for my book of really short stories, in fact the guy it's dedicated to. His stories usually center, like most good literary stories, around quirks of character--though they might have plots, the plots are worthless without the people they happen to and who make them happen.
The funny thing is, he and I know a lot of the same people, but they're often more vivid to me in his stories than they are in my memory. The stories recontextualize the memories--they give them depth and weight. Talking to him is like recharging the past--he reminds me of its potential to illuminate the present. People, places, and events we've shared become real again, and real in new ways.
It occurs to me, listening to him, that I need to spend more time noticing things and committing them to memory. I've been a writer for two thirds of my life, a professional one for ten years, and yet, believe it or not, I never seem to have a notebook or pen on me. When I'm preparing to write a story, I have to open a notebook and "take notes"--actually force myself to notice and remember. The process of writing, for me, is a process of creating an artificial world of memory through brute force, one convincing enough to stick a story into, and fast, before it disappears. Meanwhile, that world is real for Steve--realer, I think, than it is for me, anyhow--and it's the one he lives in.
Anyway, I think I ought to start spending more time in Steve's world, the world of the present and past. I feel like I'm always living about thirty seconds in the future, planning my next six moves ahead of time, and what the hell kind of writer lives there? A prolific one, I guess, but not necessarily a good one. Up here at the new place, you can see the weather coming from miles away, and it makes a guy philosophical. I'm going to try drifting on the sea of memory this summer, and we'll see what results.