Learning a Trade: A Craftsman's Notebooks: 1955-1997

Overview

From Reynolds Price, much acclaimed author of award-winning novels, plays, poems, stories, and essays, comes a work that is unique among contemporary writers of American literature. For more than forty years, Price has kept a working journal of his writing life. Now published for the first time, Learning a Trade provides a revealing window into this writer’s creative process and craftsman’s sensibilities.
Whether Price is reflecting on the rhythm of his day-to-day writing ...

See more details below
Paperback
$26.76
BN.com price
(Save 10%)$29.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (19) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $9.95   
  • Used (14) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

From Reynolds Price, much acclaimed author of award-winning novels, plays, poems, stories, and essays, comes a work that is unique among contemporary writers of American literature. For more than forty years, Price has kept a working journal of his writing life. Now published for the first time, Learning a Trade provides a revealing window into this writer’s creative process and craftsman’s sensibilities.
Whether Price is reflecting on the rhythm of his day-to-day writing process or ruminating about the central character in what would become, for instance, Kate Vaiden—should she be a woman, what would be her name, why would the story be told in the first person?—he envelops the reader in the task at hand, in the trade being practiced. Instead of personal memoir or a collection of literary fragments, Learning a Trade presents what Price has called the “ongoing minutes” of his effort to learn his craft. Equally enlightening as an overview of a career of developing prominence or as a perspective on the building of individual literary works, this volume not only allows the reader to hear the author’s internal dialogue on the hundreds of questions that must be turned and mulled during the planning and writing of a novel but, in an unplanned way, creates its own compelling narrative.
These notebooks begin in “that distant summer in dazed Eisenhower America,” a month after Price’s graduation from Duke University, and conclude in “the raucous millennial present” with plans for his most recent novel, Roxanna Slade. Revealing the genesis and resolution of such works as The Surface of Earth, The Source of Light, Kate Vaiden, Clear Pictures, and Blue Calhoun, Learning a Trade offers a rich reward to those seeking to enter the guild of writers, as well as those intrigued by the process of the literary life or captured by the work of Reynolds Price.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“We have in this fine book a coincidence most fortunate for would-be writers and fellow professionals such as myself: A compulsive keeper of journals over many years who is widely appreciated as one of the most capable authors of this century.
Reynolds Price’s life, while as unique as his thumbprint, turns out here to be a strikingly general anatomy of virtually every good writer’s artistic development from childhood on. I would not have thought that generalizations about growth in such a complex profession were plausible—until this meticulous dissection was shown to me.”—Kurt Vonnegut
Renee Tursi
...[M]oves along appealingly because...he never confuses a notebook wtih a journal or diary....Rather, his life is "all int he work...not a secret spared." — The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Price is one of our finest novelists. His lyrical and evocative prose resounds with the cadences of biblical rhythms, and his narratives are spun of the golden threads of memory and love. Price began keeping these notebooks just a month after his graduation from Duke University in 1955. By then, he had already started down the road to the writing life, and he used the notebooks as his "academy...to set down in a single place anything...that seemed of possible use to the writer I meant to be." The sketches for stories and novels, from A Long and Happy Life to his recent Roxanna Slade, as well as the reflections on his teachers, family, and friends, give us a rare glimpse of the development of one of our master craftsmen. Price's notebooks teach us that writing is a laborious, often torturous, business, accompanied by occasional flights to the sublime taken by the writing soul. To read these notebooks is to glimpse into the growth of a writer from apprentice to master. -- Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Westerville Public Library, Ohio
—Bettie Alston Shea, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, NC
Renee Tursi
...[M]oves along appealingly because...he never confuses a notebook wtih a journal or diary....Rather, his life is "all int he work...not a secret spared." -- The New York Times Book Review
Wall Street Journal
Learning a Trade is a rare contemporary example of [a published working journal], giving us an almost full documentary of the mind of this author of some 31 volumes, including 11 novels, notably Mustian (1983), Kate Vaiden (1986), and Blue Calhoun (1992).
Choice
What a trove Price provides for those who might like to pursue the `trade' that Price has practiced in a career that has produced more than 30 individual books. . . . For most readers-especially apprentice writers and teachers of literature-the real interest will be in the dialogues the writer conducts with himself about what shapes and forms, twists and turns, themes and sentiments given works should have-the thinking out of formal elements. Of course, those familiar with Price's acclaimed work will relish this opportunity to enter his writer's workshop; but even those who have never read a work of his will find both an exhilarating experience and a good practical model for the writing process.
Raleigh News & Observer
Talent, brilliance, youthful brashness, seasoned confidence-all are represented in more than 600 pages of small type. . . Young writers can study here an older, and very productive, and very successful, writer's fear of not producing enough-or, perhaps, his working-man's wish to record just how much he has been able to produce-while underscoring the fact that fastidious craftsmanship and very hard physical labor are essential to the art of fiction. Students of Price also will see that his profound love for, and engagement with, his parents and their story, and his own as somehow an extension of theirs, is essential to understanding his work. A close reading of these pages will suggest that sexuality in all of its aspects is a key to the fiction of Reynolds Price, a subsuming topic, an antiphonic presence to the spectre, as present as water or wood, of time. . . . He is an exemplar, an artist who matters, a great natrual force, a national resource and . . . a generous man.
Washington Post Book World
So here are the literary notebooks, then, of a distinguished modern American novelist, playwright and poet. They bristle with schedules and plans that any working writer will surely recognize.
ForeWord
Reynolds Price (much like his beloved Eudora Welty) affirms that the imagination is fluent in the local vernacular. And it is the nature of inspiration, the writer's breath that brings to life the studio's clay figures, that informs this volume: a rare glimpse into the artist's studio, from his days as a callow Milton scholar in search of an authorial voice in the Eisenhower era, to a 1997 reading of his last novel, Roxanna Slade, to his creative writing students at Duke University, where he has taught English since 1958. . . . Here, he offers in a rare move a public, formal posture of the writer at work. While not fiction, it is certainly selective. The craftiness that lives in any writer's craft is elicited.

Perhaps it's just as well, for that is the one trick that can't be taught, only discovered within.

Kirkus Reviews
What Price describes humbly as "the ongoing minutes of one craftsman's effort through more than four decades to learn his business" is, in fact, a monumental entree into the extraordinarily restive, creative mind of the South's great elegist and one of America's pre-eminent moral novelists.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822325888
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Pages: 603
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Reynolds Price is the author of thirty books, including eleven novels and many volumes of poems, plays, stories, and essays. In 1962 his novel A Long and Happy Life received the William Faulkner Award for a first novel. Kate Vaiden won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1986. His Collected Stories appeared in 1993, followed four years later in 1997 by his Collected Poems. Private Contentment, a play written for television, was commissioned by American Playhouse and appeared in its premier season on PBS; Full Moon, Price’s sixth play, was performed by the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco in 1994. In 1995 he began to broadcast regular commentaries for “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio. Since 1958 Reynolds Price has taught English at Duke University, where he is James B. Duke Professor of English.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


STORY POSSIBILITIES, EXPRESSIONS AND ANECDOTES) METAPHORS, EARLY STORIES AND READING) M, A NEW "ANNIVERSARY," "TROUBLED SLEEP"

Story Possibilities


4 JULY 1955. The Drakes try to hire William Jennings Bryan to recover the sleeping fortune of Sir Francis Drake from England. You might call it "The Sleeping Fortune."


28 JULY 1955. A small town wants to change its name—a group wants to change it, that is, and name it after a deceased citizen. All the argument boils down to near-deification or -damnation of the late citizen.
A pair of Jews isolated, totally, in a small Southern town—part of nothing neither society nor religion, and without children. The necessity that the man make the most debasing daily compromises while his wife builds her own solitary life.


29 JULY 1955. Why can I not do a novel—or rather, a book composed of two short, inter-related novels? The first would be an expansion of that bad story I called "A Portrait of This Lady," the second would be the story that I have wanted to write as "The Precincts of Light."


16 MAY 1956. Maybe a story about (or with) Buster Humble. Remember all his dogs and the handkerchief he always wore around his neck.


17 AUGUST 1956. Miss Milder Tharrington of Norfolk,
Va., spent the weekend at her
home in Inez. Miss Margaret Davis
returned with her for a weeks
visit. Mrs. Gid Tharrington and
Gid, Jr., spent Sunday withthem.


29 AUGUST 1956. I reckon there's another Rosacoke story—if that would be wise—in what Martha Reynolds told about Mildred Tharrington going to work as a telephone operator in Newport News, Virginia, and getting herself a very rich boyfriend—with his own airplane. Martha Reynolds said the first weekend he flew Mildred down to Inez, they landed in Gid's pasture and it scared the old cow so bad that every tit sat out like a pot leg and squirted milk.


18 September 1956. In a way it would be wise and foolish: wise because Rosacoke is so much the embodiment of that kind of girl, and foolish because I might be cramped in having a predetermined set of characters. I guess, in the end, a totally new start would be best.


20 December 1956. No, don't use her again unless the new story occurs before "A Chain of Love."


25 JANUARY 1957. The P story—told maybe by her—and ending with an epilogue in which she sees the boy (across a room or something: without his seeing her, in fact) and tries to find him changed and no longer to be loved, but in the end she admits to herself the still-huge power of his beauty: "Then he left bearing his face like a chalice forward through the crowd, his face shining." or: ... His face. Shining.


16 MARCH 1957. Possible poems or lines for the P story: Hold back this dying in me, For you can..


11 AND 16 MARCH 1957.

It was your face, the common
Red on white of it,
The mouth as neatly molded as a girl's
That circled fear and closed and closing doors,
The hair like fallen wheat where underneath the rain has been
But on it—here and here—those white, bright lacings
Laid on by a long and northern sun
Like wire-work caps that Juliets wear
When standing on a sudden clear and free—
Alone at some long, twining, warm night's ball—
They move in that white stillness which they are
And strike deep through the hearts of pale, masked Romeos
Who shudder in the wonder of that light
And set the night afire
With one sweet hidden smile ...


It was your face, the sudden shining from the mask of it,
Your face still shining,
Shining, Face.


19 MARCH 1957.

Why did I take from all that room
Of walled-up, hungry faces, you?
Why single out to lay this awful burden
At your feet
Or round your needless, slender neck? ...
[Then go on to: "It was your face ..." and conclude with a warning that great beauty lays huge duties on its bearer.]


17 FEBRUARY AND 23 MARCH 1957. On the gypsy boy in Stephen's Augustus John: which can be used in this story—
There, six feet from her, he sat, his head carelessly in his hand, an unminded treasure slowly gilded by her look with the richness and the terror of her love, not wanting it, not knowing even that on his eyes and brow and on that curling mouth hung all her life, knowing only—and that, inside, where his heart was, his secret—that he might rise suddenly with that shining face like Phaeton in his car or like David to dance before the Ark, and set them all a-dance and drive square-through her heart—the pain of knowing—like some old tune which sweetly claims that all we have is love, that what we love may not love back, and that all beauty dies.


27 APRIL 1957. And reap from your golden head the waving cap of wheat.


29 APRIL 1957. In the P story there must be a point of view which will permit me to write passages of beauty that totter on the edge of absurdity:
... and most of all a distant face as though he stood on infinite white sands and turned his head toward homes that were not mine. The sudden flashing of the hard edge of hate, that and a sudden shiningness about the eyes when they came back and the floating hair like clouds over growing storms and the look, like wine, a little sour on the tongue and with love, a little. Love.


11 FEBRUARY 1958. Maybe a story: 2 very old Negroes—not married—who live together. The one's utter desolation when the other commits suicide.


6 DECEMBER 1958. I keep feeling I could do something—hardly a story: a sort of fantasia—beginning from this photograph of Dad at National Guard Camp—"standing there, not knowing he had 36 years to live and 2 sons to leave."


8 JUNE 1959. Last sentence for a story: "`Morning,' he said—which was what it was."


19 JUNE 1959. Story: two people who meet—quite innocently and without attraction—somewhere in Europe and set out to find rooms [a room?] for the night. It is a long search and during it—and via their talk—they begin to desire, and when they find, at last, a room, they share the bed, themselves.
A Negro nurse [Bessie] rears a white child. And when he matures, she initiates him.


20 AUGUST 1961. A novel told in 5 or so episodes—the one I've thought of ail year—but with episode 1 in first person (and maybe 2 others) and some (as with the P and M parts) in the first person of P and M. Thus it would have to be quite consciously a "Writer's Book" but the strangeness and the intensity might be self-justifying.


Expressions and Anecdotes


28 JULY 1955. An old man who refuses to comply when the Methodist Church decides to change Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit in the Creed. And when everybody else got to that place on Sunday and said "Holy Spirit," he would blast out over all the rest with "Holy Ghost."


2 AUGUST 1955. Louise Rowan said, "None of the Rodwells were ever born crazy—they were just backwards in coming forwards."
And all Louise remembered about Ducker's trousseau was that she had a hat with ragged robins on it.

   Negroes used to call white adolescent females "little missy girls."

   Ducker: "Miss Lucy Thornton was always a peculiar-Julia."


9 AUGUST 1955. Ducker: when Mama died her last breath sounded like a dove. Marvin couldn't listen to a dove for the longest kind of time.
Louise had her teeth drawn and the new ones put in—all the same day. That afternoon she sang "Go Down, Moses" at the Woman's Club, expecting to have them fall out any minute.
Louise: "I'm kicking, but not high."
Marvin, Bootie, Stooks, and Skinny drove to Warrenton one day to a ball game. On the way home a storm came up and blew the top off the car, and they all drove up in the yard at home, soaking wet.
Ducker has a picture of several young people (including herself and Louise) sitting on the snow in front of the Rodwell house. Each of them has on a large paper valentine.
Toad Foote had about half her children—the all-black ones—by Ben Harrison, "Dr. Pepper." Someone asked her once if she and Dr. Pepper were married. "No'm we ain't married. We jest made arrangements."


11 AUGUST 1955. Mary Eleanor says that James Polk once gave a birthday party for his dog. Lad went and embarrassed everybody there by jumping on all the female dogs. Crichton Davis painted the dog's portrait. ("Lad didn't have a thing on his mind but rape," Mary Eleanor said.)


30 JUNE 1956. I think it was Mildred who said that Marcia and I slept together until I got my driver's license. Then they thought it was time to stop.
Remember that woman in Asheboro who unscrewed the "At Rest" sign from her husband's casket.


24 AUGUST 1956. Remember that Pat Drake used to say—as a boast—that she was eating pork sausage before she was ten months old, and knew everybody's birthday before she was a year.


28 AUGUST 1956. When Daddy was a boy he belonged to a baseball team, and a little Negro girl named Baby Lou was shortstop.


29 AUGUST 1956. Mr. Perman, a Jewish haberdasher, claimed he had a photograph of that worker who fell off the Warrenton water tank. Daddy said he saw the picture and that there was some spot hanging there in the air, but—knowing Mr. Perman—he always suspected it was just dust on the Kodak lens.


31 AUGUST 1956. One of the things Cas always told us was about the birthday party Aunt Winny Reeks gave him. He invited all his little friends to come to have ice cream. They all came and then Aunt Winny just served Apple Float—"some nice Apple Float."
I think it was Skinny who got engaged to a little Macon girl at about age 10—with his mother's silver powder box. Papa made him go and ask for it back.


4 SEPTEMBER 1956. Martha Reynolds and Gordon went to a Smiley family reunion, and Gordon was called on to say the blessing. Everybody got all bent over, waiting for a regular Edward-Allen-grace, and Gordon just said something short and "Episcopal." Everybody looked kind of cheated.
Martha Reynolds said Gordon—in his Bermuda shorts—looked like the Ringbearer in a Womanless Wedding.
Remember Daddy playing "Shall We Gather at the River" on the piano.
Frank Thornton was in the Army for 30 years, and all he got to be was Messenger Boy. It was the Cavalry.


5 SEPTEMBER 1956. For a hundred years Joyce Russell has taught the Primaries at the Baptist Sunday School in Macon. The best years were when Mary Donna Overby was in the class. One Sunday morning Mary Donna announced that Mr. Pete Burroughs was dead. Everybody was real distressed. (He drove a red oil truck.) Finally Joyce asked Mary Donna where she found that out, and Mary Donna said, "I just thought he must be, I hadn't heard nothing about him for so long."
And, then, at Christmas all the children—except Mary Donna—gave Joyce presents. Finally, Mary Donna couldn't stand it any longer: "Mrs. Russell, I had a present for you, but Susie blowed her nose in it."


8 SEPTEMBER 1956. Today I heard of Sis Belle's death. She had received a letter from me on Saturday and died on Monday morning. The sadness of it is this: there is no one to whom you could say, "I am sorry." No need to say it, even.


18 SEPTEMBER 1956. I think it was Joyce Russell who told about the woman putting an ad in the paper for a cook. The only stipulation being: "No okayers need apply."
Gordon said that when he was a boy they used to get charity boxes of old clothes. He claims that when he was 11 he got one of Mr. Pierpont Morgan's old Prince-Alberts, and wore it to school for years.


21 SEPTEMBER 1956. Of course, Martha Reynolds has always been scared of dead folks. When Dr. Foote, the family doctor, died, Daddy got a life-sized picture from Hunter Drug Co—it was a picture of Dr. Caldwell, an ad for Dr. Caldwell's preparation, and it looked very much like Dr. Foote. Well, Daddy set this thing up in Martha Reynolds's bedroom the night after Dr. Foote's funeral, and when she finally got nerve enough to go upstairs to bed, there stood old Dr. Foote, his nose-glasses in his hand, his head cocked to one side, grinning at her across the room!


22 SEPTEMBER 1956. The night after Uncle Buddy's funeral, Martha Reynolds was sleeping upstairs and she woke up dying to pee. Finally, she crept downstairs without turning on a light (so as not to disturb Ma-Ma, who was terribly broken up). She walked in the dark bathroom, lifted her gown, and took a seat—on a warm body that touched her and said, "Don't worry, Baby, it's me." It was Ma-Ma. Martha Reynolds cut-aloose all over her.


3 NOVEMBER 1956. When I was in the 7th grade I rode with Martha Reynolds and Gordon out to the Tharringtons', and I asked Mrs. Tharrington how Nancy Lee King was getting on (she was in my grade and had been out sick for a long time). Mrs. Tharrington said, "Well, she's better now—but she had the locked bowels, if you know what that is."
One evening after supper one of Roy Shearin's children came over to Martha Reynolds's and invited her and Gordon over for ice-cream. Gordon said he couldn't go as he'd eaten fish for supper (which was a lie), but Martha Reynolds went along. And there sat Roy with the freezer between his legs, turning. They gave Martha Reynolds a big soup-bowl full, and while she was choking it down, the old cow walked up and looked over into the freezer. "She knew she was responsible for that," Martha Reynolds said.


3 DECEMBER 1956. Cousin Lilly Gee's father—old Dr. Gee—was buried in his overcoat and hat.
I once heard of a man who sucked his thumb till he was 32 years old.


8 MAY 1957. Remember how Dad used to say turmoil: tumoil.

When Dad went off to National Guard Camp in Morehead City, Ma-Ma packed him a fried chicken lunch to eat on the train, and he saved the bones for the whole two weeks and used to take them out and look at them.
They were having some son of conference at the Macon Methodist Church and towards the end the various churches represented were called on to stand and announce their proposed financial contribution to the project at hand. Finally, Peachtree Church was called on and a man from there stood up and said "Well, Peachtree's got about all she can tote."
Pat and Marcia used to make a great deal of their Pocahontas connection: Mildred had told them they had about one drop of Indian blood. So one day Pat cut her finger and cried bitterly for fear she had lost that one drop.


9 MAY 1957. Once—on a dare—Dad asked Miss Miriam Boyd (in chemistry class) if she could make water.
Bill and Weebie were once discussing the music they wanted played at their weddings. Bill wanted something like "Because" and Weebie wanted "Kiss of Fire."


19 MAY 1957. There used to be two long outhouses at Graham's Academy—boys' and girls'. One day, Daddy and some others just lifted up the girls' and turned it over—with Crichton Thorne and several others sitting right in it.
Also one of the boys once reached in from outside, somehow, and stuck a hatpin in some girl's behind.
Once in Latin Class, Miss Amma Graham asked for the verb "to drag or draw along." So she went down the row and nobody knew. About halfway along Daddy whispered to John Tarwater "It's drago-dragere, ain't it, John?" And John practically fell off the bench waving his hand to get called on. Finally, Miss Amma said "All right, John, you tell them." —"It's drago-dragere."—"For the Lord in Heaven's sake, sir, go to the foot of the class, and I'll have Papa thrash you!"


23 JULY 1957. Ron Tamplin was walking around the grounds of his sanatorium the other morning, and he saw one of the older patients, standing smoking, pale. Ron asked him some trivial question, and all he said was, "Jim's just died. I was making another poodle and he died."


1 SEPTEMBER 1957. In Preston Park, Brighton, there is a Scented Garden for the Blind.


8 MAY 1958. Ron Tamplin told me about some medieval bishop [?] who was known as the Celestial Trumpet.


4 SEPTEMBER 1958. Joyce said she was present recently when some family genealogist was asking Emma Battle about her Egerton uncles. Em-Battle failed to mention Bert Egerton—the feeble-minded one who slept with the horses. Joyce said, "I didn't say anything but I thought to myself: if they're all forgetting poor Bert, it's about time I brought him up."
Martha Reynolds said Roy Shearin—walking down the aisle at his daughter's wedding—had no more expression on his face than a cheese.


17 OCTOBER 1958. Mary Savage says she wants 2 things when she goes to heaven: a mansion with more than seven rooms and curly hair.


2 JANUARY 1959. On radio today—a Mr. Coble of Randleman was on a deer hunt. He climbed a tree and fired down on a buck. The gun kicked him out of the tree and broke his back.


2 JUNE 1959. Mac Thornton used to give Wittie a nickle to scratch his (Mac's) head.
Mrs. Benson (at Wrenn-Pharr's) was married at 14. Her husband courted her in knickers and bought his first long trousers for the wedding.


15 JUNE 1959. Mildred tells about a woman in Greensboro who let her daughter have a house party. Then one night during the party, she had gone downstairs to get a scuttle of coal. On the way back upstairs, she saw a couple kissing in the hall. She dropped the scuttle and said, "Dear God—and I say it reverently—save their souls."


26 JULY 1959. Louise said of a letter: "I read between the lines—and that's good reading."
When Miss Lucy Thornton went mad, she became convinced of her physical immortality: she wanted to die but knew she could not, like the Cumaean sybil. She said, "You could shoot me and I wouldn't die." —And once, pointing to a dog on the porch: "I don't pray anymore than that dog does."
During the war Junie said to Wash, "Wash, are you going to enlist?"
"No sir."
"Don't you love your country?"
"Mr. Drake, I done lived in town so long I don't care nothing about the country no more."
Junie said black Mary Milam once came to Mr. W. G. Egerton and said,, "Mr. Will, how about giving me some money for this latest child." Mr. Egerton said, "I pay at the hole, Mary. Pay at the hole."
Mac saw a colored boy eating a cone of cream and said, "Is the ice cream good, boy?"
"Yassuh."
"How damn good?"


Metaphors


28 AUGUST 1955.... waiting, for what she didn't know, like little leathery country boys sitting on their porches looking out at the road.
When she leaned forward the old white skin of her breast fell down upon itself in a host of involved wrinkles like a handful of crape myrtle had been picked and laid in there.


OCTOBER 1955. Home is where all the great things ought to happen to us—the things like pain and death—where we can reach behind us into old pain and so ease the new.


20 JUNE 1956, TINTAGEL. Has anybody ever said about the sea that it takes away with one hand what it gives with another?


30 JUNE 1956. The thinly-oiled and nearly-fruited look of a young boy.


18 SEPTEMBER 1956. One time Mildred made a perfectly straight black dress for Marcia—thin as she was—and Daddy took one look at her and said she reminded him of a burnt match.


20 OCTOBER 1956. Once when Daddy was conductor on the Warrenton Railroad, he took little Son Grant along for the trip to Warren Plains. Something unforeseen happened—Daddy thought the train was going to wreck—so he threw Son out into a bed of honeysuckle.


26 OCTOBER 1956. Mrs. Kirkby said my face looked as long as a wet week. (Or, another time: a face as long as a fiddle.)


29 OCTOBER 1956. Perhaps a thing can be beautiful only when there hangs about it a potentiality for terror. Perhaps, indeed, that is why his beauty was so heart-breaking—there was in it so imminent a threat, a promise, of decay.


18 DECEMBER 1956.... bearing his face on through the crowd, that mortal chalice flashing with the wonder and the secret of his love.


From the look of a boy who sat in front of me on the London-Oxford train. He got out at Reading.
These are, in some way, suggested by photographs in The Family of Man.
p. 23. as wet and slick as birth itself. Or love.
32. her breasts like two eggs fried and laid oh her chest.
39. he died skillfully, silently—all of it—like when a diver goes head and feet out of sight into a dark lake.
79. (by contrast) her old hands paddling the air like slow brown birds.
90. next to, maybe, someone walking on a beach alone, the loneliest looking thing in the world is someone eating alone.
129. there's surely a whole story in this.


12 AUGUST 1957. Mrs. Kirkby (on a Queen's student she was dancing with who got "all het-up"): "I thought any minute it'd be coming out the top of his collar."


21 AUGUST 1957. The only thing wrong with him was his right leg which bent out a little at the knee, making him seem a large letter D stood against the sky.


30 AUGUST 1957. The kind of broken flint that is used in Sussex feels very much like smooth, firm skin—a feel that stays on your fingers after the touch has ended the way the feel of the wind in the roots of your hair stays on after you have run or ridden hard against it.


6 DECEMBER 1958. fingers like bamboo walking sticks.


JUNE 1959. Louise: "ugly as a mud fence daubed in misery."


27 JULY 1959. a cow's tail curved for pissing graceful as an axe handle.

(Continues...)

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface vii
A Note on the Text xix
Names 1
Story Possibilities, Expressions and Anecdotes, Metaphors,
Early Stories and Reading, M, Notes for a New "Anniversary," 7
A Long and Happy Life 73
Good and Bad Dreams, A Generous Man, A Possible Volume of
Stories 131
Love and Work, Scars 137
The Surface of Earth, Stories, A Libretto for Sam Barber,
Good Hearts 143
The Source of Light 249
Private Contentment 301
Kate Vaiden 311
New Music 337
Good Hearts 345
The Tongues of Angels, Full Moon, Clear Pictures, Poems,
Songs, Stories, The Foreseeable Future, Essays, Blue Calhoun, 367
Blue Calhoun 507
The Promise of Rest 543
Roxanna Slade 577
Notes 601
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)