Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pre-Thanksgiving Post, 2013

This year, for the first time, Mary and I are having our extended family to our home for Thanksgiving. We are expecting thirty. This is far more than will comfortably fit into our three-bedroom rambler, but Thanksgiving is not about being comfortable. It is about being grateful for having enough food and enough loved ones to become uncomfortably full and close.
My homemade pancetta

We’ve lost some folks over the past few years, but on the whole our family has been lucky. Charlie tried to kill himself last summer by falling off a horse. He’s a mite gimpy now, but mostly okay. Otherwise, this year has been relatively benign for the Hautman/Logue clans, with no unanticipated passings, no broken unions, no new terminal conditions, no homes lost to natural disasters. For all that, we are thankful.

I’m the turkey guy this year. Gigantic birds frighten me, so I’ll be cooking two “small” turkeys (the inverse of “jumbo” shrimp) and making a half gallon of gravy. Also, a hen-of-the-woods-and-pancetta stuffing/dressing. Mary is doing pumpkin pies and wild rice. My brothers are bringing elk and a smoked goose. Vegetables, appetizers, wine, and chairs are coming from all directions. We will have four tables set up with a motley collection of mismatched crockery, glasses, flatware, and bourgeois wildlife-themed paper napkins.

It’ll be a little crazy and a lot of fun. I hope the same for all of you.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Book Will Save Your Life

I woke up this morning with the Pointer Sisters in my head. Now, I like the Pointer Sisters, to a point, but it’s been about four straight hours of “I’m So Excited” looping through my brain, and I am becoming weary of it.

I do not know why the Pointer Worm invaded my virtual ear. I woke up, and it was there, broadcasting tinnily, sounding remarkably like a monaural nine transistor pocket radio circa 1963. Why this song? Why now? Had I heard the song recently? Not to the best of my recollection. Had I encountered the words “I’m so excited” in some other context? I don’t think so. Was I excited? Am I excited?

Well, yes, I am excited, but not in a frenetic hot-to-trot Pointer Sisters sort of way. I have never been that excited. My excitement is more of the slow burn, rising tide, tight-chested variety. It is the familiar sort of excitement that comes with the approaching publication of a new book.*

Because every new book I write is the book that will save me.

It’s a writer thing that writers don’t often talk about, not even to each other. You see, we are all drowning, and that is the reason we keep writing, because every new book is the book that will float us above and away from (choose three) irrelevance, mediocrity, madness, obscurity, obloquy, ourselves.

And so, I blame the Pointer Sisters earworm on the fact that I have a new book coming out in a few months.

Several years ago I read a novel called This Book Will Save Your Life, by A.M. Homes. I picked it up in part because I’d recently heard an interview with Homes, and I liked what she said. Mostly, though, I was attracted by the title. I enjoyed the book—it’s a funny, smart, magical-realistic tale about a lonely, dissociated man who discovers that he is not alone. I would recommend it to some people. But—and this is not a bad thing—the title is the best part.

Why do I write? Why write when there are so many other things I could be doing with my one and only life? Why not become a savior, a saint, a martyr? Why not make a ton of money and surround myself with luxury? Why not raise a litter of children and propagate my DNA? Why not watch TV and drink beer all day? Why not stop breathing and maybe find out that I’m wrong about what happens next?

I write because the next book is always the book that will save my life. The book that will make sense of all that I have experienced. It is a rocket, a flare, a smoke signal, a howl. “Howl” is another great book title. “Call me Ishmael” is a great first line. “Only connect” is a great epigraph.

As I was writing this, my “I’m So Excited” earworm morphed into “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” by Daft Punk. Still the tinny 1960s era transistor radio playing through a single earphone. Same difference, I say.