Saturday, January 31, 2009

End January.

The month closes itself down, and even though there was no forecast these past few days, there was weather: rain Tuesday and Wednesday, fog bookending that rain, church spire out the kitchen window fuzzing over and clearing itself back out, then doing that again. Today suggests, just barely, the warm they say's coming tomorrow, but the sun's still low, the air's still chilly. Maybe I don't remember winter. The daffodils don't either, apparently, now out of the ground six inches.

How it went: on Tuesday, the novel was a disaster. On Wednesday, in the warmer fog, it seemed better, somehow. On Thursday I gave up and sent it on in.

I don't have any idea what happened yesterday. There was sun. It was cold.

We've sold, it seems, the Elam house. Cleaned it out today. Brought two clumps of the bluebells over, Mrs. Whoever's bluebells, who planted them thirty years ago and which have now naturalized ad nauseum across the yard, and which I do not even much care for in the way that I care for, say, dogwoods or daffodils or azaleas, but somehow my house would not be my house without these indestructible bluebells, and so there they now are, on the northeast side of the front porch, and though now is no time to transplant, I think they'll hang on. I'd be satisfied, I believe, if thirty or fifty years from now these ones here were Mr. Whoever's bluebells.

Hard to leave that yard. Hard to leave that outbuilding, wherein most of the novel etcetera.

And, friends and fans of novels, somewhere in all of this John Updike up and died, and I'm nobody to eulogize a man whose novels I've read only four of (the terrific Rabbit quartet) and whose stories I've read only a very few of, but it has landed on me, has registered on the barometer here at ANYLF, has left the interns around here wondering if there will ever be another American Novelist in quite that way, if all this digital panjandrum now means that nobody like him will every really have the chance to come along again, if now, these days, we don't really know who Richard Ford or Michael Chabon is in quite the same way because we haven't got the time nor the inclination in quite the same way. This, from the terrific New Yorker remembrance site, is Updike's fifth rule of sound book reviewing:

"If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author's oeuvre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it’s his and not yours?"

Warmer tomorrow, then cold again. Rain out there in the forecast. January ends. Let's us all learn to fail -- or cop to the fact that we have failed -- next month, and the next, and the one after that.

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