Excerpt from my Letter to Bob, 3 April 2008

...Look at this. Yet another long tale of months gone scurrying by. Time and events conspire very quickly to depose any sense of control I can ever begin to pretend. My letter-book is filled with half-started letters to you, every one laid waste by the phenomenal pace of things.

Fortunately, as forbidding as such obstacles are for me, it takes but one instance to break a self-imposed cycle of frustration. Begging your patience, this letter is largely going to be about achieving that instance for my own purposes.

I hope things go very well for you in the North Country. Recently I've been reading and re-reading some very moving and lovely books that have reminded me of you--specifically, your sense of character, your gentleness, a kind of hapless wisdom, that sort of thing. The books are: "Jim the Boy," by Tony Earley; "Gilead," by Marilynne Robinson; "No Country for Old Men," by Cormac McCarthy; and "In Dubious Battle," by John Steinbeck.

On the face of it, these are all 'rural' books, taking as their settings primarily country settings and issues, but they are also all very heartelt books, in my opinion. Each of them carry characters who are etched with knowing or witnessing fatal things, and each of these characters cope with the fatality of the world by casting themselves as these clear, vast reflecting pools, in which they can turn inward to see the world reflected, remembered, almost re-ordered and rebuilt, and their parts in it reprised or redacted. They are creatures of memory, missionaries of slaughtered traditions, transmitting hoards of affection and responsibility along to the rest of their respective books.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but my sense is that there are parallels between the bits of yourself you've shared with me, and the knowing, introspective, beleaguered and loving qualities--set amidst a violently traumatic backdrop of other strange and beautiful people--all to be found in those titles.

I should point out, though, that it's also pretty clear to me how prone I am to seeing what I've just finished reading wherever I look next, as often with reason as not. "Julius Caesar?" --There goes Cassius walking right by me, lean and hungry. "Middlesex?" --Loose threads on my sleeve, floating in the wind, as from Smyrna. "The Odyssey?" --Oh look, that lovely woman is waiting for me, just like Penelope.

Further, it seems to me that the Natural World spurs these dubious connections: insight is whimsy made respectable, and there are few things I can think of so whimsical, and yet equally respectable, as when whole trees suddenly explode with cherry blossoms. The World demands to be seen anew, and when our eyes are willingly seeing what we could not see before, the insights do not end with the confines of the physical world. Sleep is even richer. Women are somehow lovelier. Coffee is sharper. Everything old is new again.

I open "Long Christmas Ride Home" on the 18th of this month, in which I'm puppeteering a variety of shadow and bunraku puppets, plus a cameo live appearance as Baby Jesus in a Nativity sequence. Which Is. Going to Be. Awesome....

Write as you can. Know that you're much missed. Look to hear more soon,


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