Reading and Writing

Former Location of Maxwell House Yesterday, while the rain pummeled the streets outside, Mercurio and I spent our time writing. Mercurio worked on a group epistolary story while I edited my novel. He wrote two letters, and I moved about 5 pages forward, so it was very productive. When we finished the sun had come out and the air smelt wonderful. We had been working right next to the old Maxwell House factory in Hoboken at (ironically) a Starbucks. Rumor had it that when it rains one could smell coffee all throughout Hoboken, even long after the factory had closed. But since they tore it down to make room for “luxury” apartments the only thing we could smell was the upturned earth, and, well, Starbucks. There is a Talmudic saying which says, “Use your good vase today, for tomorrow it may be broken.” I take this to mean (besides the obvious) that we should appreciate the things we have before they are gone, even such simple things as the smell of Maxwell House coffee wafting through the city streets. I forgot to mention that I did in fact smell coffee once before they tore it down.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading too. I’ve been reading a lot about plants and the various types, but I also just finished two excellent pieces of fiction. The first is from Bill Shunn (whose essay was in Sybil’s Garage #2), and is in the latest Asimov’s. The piece is called “Inclination” and is about a boy growing up inside an insular religion on an enormous space station. He takes a job “outside” his people’s quarters and he confronts technology and human alterations that his people consider evil. It’s part awakening, part coming of age story, all wrapped in a wonderful science fictional setting. Recommended reading.

I also finished a novel which you may have heard of called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I picked it up after my father raved about it (he seldom raves about anything) and also Paul Tremblay blogged about it. It is the story of Oskar Schell, a nine year old who lost his father in 9/11. And unlike that wretched upcoming film which seeks to exploit people’s hopes and fears about the tragedy (film to be unnamed), EL&IC doesn’t rely heavily on the events that day, nor does the novel even center around those moments. It’s what happens after and what happened before, but most of all the characters that really make this novel sing. This is a wonderful piece of art, and I suspect, though I may be proven wrong, that EL&IC will eventually be part of the American literary canon. The night I finished the novel I dreamt about the characters — I felt their pain and their loss as if it were my own. It is that powerful. Put down what you are reading and pick up this book.