‘Perchance it might be properly said, there are three times: a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things future.’ – Confessions of Saint Augustine
Trying to remember and reconstruct my meetings with Harold Brodkey is a little like dragging a shadowy figure out of its corner into the daylight. The steady, clear light which floods the now: the present of things past, present and, maybe, future. In his treatise on the mnemonic arts, Matteo Riccci – a 16th century Jesuit priest – describes in great detail how to construct memory palaces: architectural spaces held in the mind, where one places, with great care and precision, figures whose posture and personality enable us to recall past events or information. The rooms of the palace, he says, should be uncluttered and spacious; the light clear and even, though not bright enough to dazzle; and the spaces themselves must be clean and dry ‘lest the images be streaked with rain or dew’.
In constructing the memory palace where Brodkey lives in me, I have tried to keep these rules in mind. But the image of Brodkey himself, like the silhouette of a key, unlocks a flood of other messy and unruly sentiments which dazzle, streak and clutter, refusing to stay in order. And memory itself emerges as less of a tool than the thing itself, not the chisel but the sculpture.
Brodkey’s first claim to fame was that it took him nigh on thirty years to publish his first novel. The Runaway Soul. His first critically acclaimed collection of short stories, First Loves and Other Sorrows, appeared in 1957. The American literary cognoscenti spent the next three decades waiting for The Novel, by turns gleeful and scornful, praising and denouncing him in roughly equal measure.
His second claim to fame was that he died of AIDS. His physical decline and his ferocious battle against disease were documented with characteristic unflinching self-regard in This Wild Darkness, published a few months after he died in 1996.
And his third claim to fame, not unrelated – in fact, intimately connected – to these first two, was what he calls ‘the myth of my irresistibility: The Fuck You Dreamed Of, Maybe.’ If Brodkey himself is to be believed, half of New York has been in love with him at one time or another. He allies himself with Brando, Tennessee Williams and other such ‘sexy, bankrupt, Christ-like orphans.’ The devil in John Updike’s book The Witches of Eastwick, played by Jack Nicholson in the film, was supposedly modelled on Brodkey. There was definitely something of the fallen angel about him. ‘It was an insiderish thing to be “in love” with me,’ he recalls. ‘I cannot find in my memory a day in my life without some erotic drama or other.’
And my claim to Brodkey? Nothing much – two brief encounters: that’s it really. That an extreme, unreasonably personal relationship to his books. Well, that one book actually: the run-away soul, kicking and bucking like an unbroken horse on the Illinois plains of his childhood, blistering the palms with its twisted reins.
November 1991, Manchester UK
In the early ’90s, I was working as a commissioning editor at Manchester University Press, and Waterstones bookshop on Deansgate was a regular haunt. I loved the plush carpet, the well-stocked bookshelves and that quiet, self-absorbed bustle that good bookshops seem to specialise in. The Runaway Soul had just been published and the reviewers had gone to town on it – although they wrote less about the book itself than its author.
‘Harold Brodkey is about to become America’s greatest writer,’ pronounced James Wood The Guardian (July 20, 1991). ‘That’s what they way in New York, and it’s what they’ve been saying ever since his first extraordinary stories were published more than 30 years ago. But Brodkey is still widely unknown, and his first novel, decades in the making, is still being edited. “Either I am truly great,” he says, “or I am a fraud.”’ The publication of his magnum opus had already been announced, prematurely, at least twice – in the New York Times in 1977, and then again in the Washington Post in 1986. It had finally appeared and I was amazed and a bit taken aback that the author himself would be doing a reading at Waterstones.
I bicycled through the perennial Manchester drizzle to the bookshop, propped my bike outside, and joined the throng, seated in rows in front of a small desk piled high with copies of the book. The first word that came into my mind on seeing Brodkey in the flesh was ‘dapper’. His salt-and-pepper beard was trimmed as neatly and to the exact same length as his hair. He surveyed the room with piercingly intelligent, mischievous black eyes. Dressed in a dark turtle-neck sweater and a tweedy jacket, he was the picture of elegance: very Conneryesque. There was something trim, yet muscular about him, pared-down but tough, like he worked out a lot. You just knew that if he smoked, he’d smoke really, really well – thoughtfully, intensely, and with a great deal of style. His wife, Ellen Schwamm, was there at his side looking twinkly and slightly nervous. She had a quick, engaging smile.
After the bookshop manager’s reverential intro, Brodkey started to read: ‘I was slapped and hurried along in the private applause of birth – I think I remember this well.’ The opening line of The Runaway Soul. Of course he would start with the narrator recalling his own birth – where else would you start to tell the story of your own life?
‘-the blind boy’s rose-and-milk and grey-walled (and salty) aquarium, the aquarium overthrown, the uproar in the woman-barn… the fantastic sloppiness of one’s coming into existence, one’s early election, one’s sense in the radiant and raw stuff of howlingly sore and unexplained registry in the new everywhere…’
By the time he got to the phrase ‘the awful contamination of actual light’, I was hooked, line and sinker. Now this, I thought to myself, is a writer. He read rather well, with a kind of amused substrate that tinted the actual audible words like a strong-colour undercoat on a freshly painted wall.
He fielded questions from the audience with immense courtesy, and finally the evening drew to a close in a flurry of book-signing. I bought my copy and procrastinated until the very end of the line when, I’d hoped, as his pen hovered over the page, names would be exchanged… and possibly phone numbers… and then, who knows? I don’t remember and can’t reconstruct our conversation. I said something cheeky and cutting which sort of got his attention and made him laugh, and we traded insults for a while which was nice.
He wrote diagonally across the whole title page of the book in big, bold biro: ‘November 1991. For Anita Roy – with memories of Manchester, England. Harold Brodkey.’
I carefully stashed the book in my bag, water-proofed against the rain outside, and cycled away through the dark, reflective streets, zigzagging a little, like I was drunk, or in love.
I remember the next few weeks reading the novel. I would lie on my front, resting on my elbows with my head propped up with my hands. It was the only position I found could comfortably accommodate the size and weight of the thing. It was the physical demand the book made.
I found myself going really, really slowly. Sometimes I’d catch myself just looking at the page, like a bewildered typesetter. What I hadn’t realised, and what could not be conveyed from listening to him read, was how utterly and furiously weird he is about punctuation. Each page was littered with ellipses and colons, sudden outbursts of italics, whole phrases linked together with dashes and then casually made into an adverb; attention-grabbing small caps; commas and full-stops used more like a choreographer might use gesture than a linguist to convey sense. Christ, I remember thinking, this must have been a nightmare to copyedit. He is the jazz master of punctuation, doing unto grammar as Charlie Parker does to melody. Wringing from every sentence its last ounce of elusive nuance, but with this dramatic artlessness – I kind of wide-gestured innocence and blunder. His writing seemed fantastically uncontrolled – a real runaway, an unbroken horse, a driverless locomotive.
I seemed to spend forever reading the book. It wasn’t just that the punctuation was odd. It was that the obsessiveness with which he tracked down and dissected to its minutest part each individual moment of feeling, demanded an almost equally obsessive attention on the part of the reader. In the same Guardian piece, James Wood wrote that ‘the real originality [of Brodkey’s work] lies in its relationship to meaning. Brodkey believes he is the first writer to search at the deepest level of meaning, to explore the intimacies of consciousness… Brodkey sinks language down into meaning, revealing previous writers as mere skimmers of truth. His writing as a mad focus. He scours meaning for its gradations and minute privacies. He searches it out, touches its tenderest places… At the deepest level, Brodkey’s writing is attempting to capture the passage of time, individual seconds and moments caught in such fullness and attention that one no longer thinks of time as consecutive (a progress) but as jagged, layered, exhaustingly diffuse.’ The present, in other words, of things past.
Reading The Runaway Soul was like being forced to re-live an entire life – in this case, that of Wiley Silenowicz, adopted Jewish Midwestern boy (none of which, coincidentally, I am). It was the most extraordinary sensation. It was as though Wiley’s memories, written out so relentlessly, actually became my own. This was more than mere ‘identification’; I felt like I’d been rigged up to one of those infernal machines you get in 1950s sci-fi movies, with trailing wires from a metal helmet linking one person to another and performing some kind of brain-transfer.
The difference between life and fiction is that life rarely makes sense, it is incoherent and rambling and full of randomness and incidental characters and insignificant coincidence. Fiction sifts out the meanginglessness and chaos of lived reality and imposes a coherence – even if of an altogether loose and seemingly chaotic type – on the whole godawful mess.
Memory, some might say, is our attempt to impose a retrospective order on things past – to tell ourselves the story. Humans are notoriously bad at remembering – we edit, cut and paste, repress, dismiss and simplify. Brodkey, unlike the rest of us mere skimmers of truth seems blessed – or cursed – with total recall. And The Runaway Soul, unlike any other novel I’ve ever read, brings that to the page with startling immediacy. Even the most fleeting and inchoate hint of a sensation is captured in his wild net of language.
‘Brodkey,’ writes Wood, ‘wants to capture the amateurishness of our lives – every clumsy sensation.’ And every clumsy memory too. Reading Harold Brodkey’s prose is both like having a memory – that slipshod, grasping, half-incoherent struggle to recollect – and like living through an actual experience, though the experience may simply be that of having the memory. That might sound like you’re receding from reality, at one too many removes of separation, but it’s actually not. Reading Brodkey one has the eerie sensation of eavesdropping on another person’s though patterns – being, for the duration of the page, or the sentence, of the chapter inside their head looking out or, for that matter, looking in.
It’s as though the language is constantly rushing at reality, grasping at and ricocheting off the real. One chapter in the novel describes Wiley, as a young boy, after the death of his father. He cycles off to the river, wades in, pisses and then masturbates into the water, turns round and goes home. Mundane moments – yet recalled with such a complete sense of the intersecting eddies of though and reality that the reader is transported – almost transposed – into the mind and body of that mortal fragment of adolescent bravery and grief.
‘I tied the dinghy to a log, half-buried in the mud. And I climbed out of the boat into the muddy water; I feel my lower legs moistly muddied in the water… my bare feet are in the gooey mud of the bottom… river molluscs cut my feet and the river shrimp tickle my ankles. My feet and lower legs are as if murmuring with sensation. My gym shoes, their laces tied, are around my neck. The quick pulsations of fear and the alternating and, maybe, ruling bravery, or recklessness, and the thing of how it felt to be really alone for a change, the expansion of the mind then – as if your own mind became a mother or a brother there with you for the day, going along with you for the day’s stuff – and to be alone in this wobbly state of bravery with no audience, I had come here for this but I hadn’t really remembered from before what it was really like.’
It’s like the poet John Ashbery wrote in ‘The Ice-Cream Wars’: ‘Although I mean it, and project the meaning/ As I hard as I can into its brushed-metal surface/ It cannot, in this deteriorating climate, pick up/ Where I leave off.’
The physicality of stuff, of objects and things, always seems in excess of our attempts to make sense of them. Brodkey, however, comes much closer than most to making meaning stick.
Wiley’s life shares many similarities to Brodkey’s own. Brodkey’s mother died when he was a toddler and he, like Wiley, was adopted as a young kid by a Midwestern Jewish couple. His adoptive father sexually abused him as a child, and died when Brodkey was twelve years old. Who knows what other incidents in the book ‘actually happened’? They all, without exception, crackle with authenticity.
When I finished reading the book, I wrote to Brodkey. He’d told me, half-joking, at the reading that I should write and let him know what I thought of it. And I’d responded with something flirtatiously crass like, ‘What, even if I think it’s crap?’ And he’d laughed and said, ‘Yeah, even then.’ So I did. I cannot remember what I said: I’m sure it was a gush of sub-Brodkeyian blah, but I was still reeling from the book, the brain-wires connecting me and Wiley hadn’t yet finished humming, and I was still woozy from the experience. It’s a strange thing, writing to the author of a book you’ve admired. I’d never done it before. As a reader, you feel that you know this person, that, through the experience of the book, you’ve already had a fairly long and intimate relationship, and that continuing this into the real light of day should present no problem. But to the writer, you’re… well, what? No one, right? Just another anonymous face in the crowd. Anyway, I sent off the letter to Brodkey, care of The New Yorker with a what-have-I-got-to-lose shrug and expected nothing further.
About a month later, a small white envelope turned up on my desk at work, containing two sheets of notepad paper. I’ve kept it somewhere so safely that I can’t now remember where: in a box in my parent’s attic perhaps. He thanked me for my letter, and said how much it meant to him that a reader – rather than these fuck-all critics (about whom he was notoriously dismissive) – should respond to his work. He described the spring happening outside his window. His handwriting was neat and fluent. He ended by saying if I ever happened to be in New York here was his number.
September 1992, New York
I had been sent to New York for a series of meeting with our American co-publishers. The offices of St Martin’s Press were located in the wedge of the Flatiron Building in Manhattan. The ritzy appeal of being a young professional woman, striding purposefully down 5th Avenue with a Styrofoam beaker of cappuccino in one hand and a satchel of contracts over my shoulder was not lost on me. The building keeled into view as incongruous and regal as a luxury liner run aground in the middle of the city. Its outer grandeur belied the cramped and angular interior, where the cabins on either side of the narrow corridor got more and more triangular until I reached the office of the head of academic publishing exactly in the prow. Between the strange angularity, the cramped quarters and the heaps of papers lying around, it felt a little like hiding out in the cupboard under the stairs.
I had called Harold from my hotel room the same evening as I’d arrived. I had no idea if he would remember me, or if he did, what he would say, but the just-the-two-of-us intimacy of his handwritten letter steeled my resolve and I dialled the number.
“Hello?” A woman’s voice answered in carefully modulated tones.
“Er, hello,” I said, “Could I speak to Harold Brodkey?”
“Sure. I’ll see if he’s free.”
There was a pause, and Harold picked up the phone.
“Hello. I don’t know if you remember me but this is Anita. Anita Roy? From Manchester? I’ve just arrived in New York, and you’d said if I was ever…”
“Oh hi! Anita!” He sounded sort of pleased and puzzled, but mostly pleased. I heaved a sigh of relief. “Can you just hold for a second, there’s someone on the other line.”
I was being put on hold by Harold Brodkey. I nearly passed out.
He came back on line asking how long I’d be here and if we could meet up.
“That would be wonderful,” I said. “When?”
We fixed to have lunch together on Friday and he gave me the address of a macrobiotic restaurant downtown. I put the receiver back on the cradle and fell backwards on the bed, giggling.
One of the main reasons for me being in New York was to try and fix a co-pub deal on a book that I’d signed up and was then in production. I was convinced then, and remain so, that it was one of the most important academic works to be published, and the thrill I got daily from knowing that I was midwifing this extraordinary book into the world added to my sense of elation. Written by the German cultural theorist, Elisabeth Bronfen – unquestionably the most intelligent and well-read woman I’d ever met – it linked together death and femininity, art and culture, from Abelard and Heloise to Diane Arbus and Marilyn Monroe. I was passionately convinced of the importance of this work which made promoting it – and the author – a doddle. My evangelical zeal paid off, and the deal was in the bag.
That Thursday, I made my way to the headquarters of Conde Nast to meet the grand old man of Vogue himself, Leo Lerman. The offices on Madison Avenue oozed an understated class and elegance. As I was escorted to Mr Lerman’s inner sanctum by his personable young assistant, I strived to carry myself with the insouciance of the Arrived. The decor was that of a sought-after gentleman’s club, with original lithographs framed on oak-panelled walls. I stood to attention, fighting the urge to clean my shoes on the backs of my trousers, and feeling hopelessly out of my depth. Mr Lerman was graciousness itself, and listened to my ravings about death and culture with a seriousness for which I felt almost tearfully grateful. HE agreed to try and carry an article on this brilliant new academic author in one of his magazines. I mentioned that I would be meeting Harold Brodkey the following day – I can’t now remember why or how that would have been relevant to our conversation: I probably just blurted it out in an effort to appear more well-connected and sophisticated and, well, more Jewish that I was. Mr Lerman raised a grizzled eyebrow in polite interest, and delivered me again unto Stephen, the charming P.A., who ushered me out.
Friday morning’s meeting went by in a blur, and I was kind of jittery with nervousness by lunchtime. It suddenly seemed like a terrible idea. Why on earth was I meeting this guy? Did I suppose that this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship? Could we possibly be friends? I mean, come on. Get real. I didn’t even have a vaguely professional excuse to meet him as I had with Mr Lerman. I had nothing to show him, or give him, or anything. I almost bolted.
I found the restaurant and sat, facing the door. When Brodkey came in, I was startled. He seemed to have aged ten years from the dapper ranconteur that I’d met less than a year ago. The creases bracketing his mouth had become deeper and more dragged down. He’d gone from trim to gaunt. I put this down to my own bad memory of how he had looked, and soldiered on through what was an increasingly stilted and pointless conversation. I think he thought that I was someone else: and neither of us could quite work out what we were doing there. The food was simple and healthful but I couldn’t wait for it to be done with. I felt like an imposter. I felt like I’d somehow let the side down.
Watching him walk away down the street, he looked like an unremarkable old man. I wanted to run after him and apologise. I don’t know what got into me. I just stood there, dumbly, in the benediction of light on that Fall afternoon, watching him leave, and feeling like an utter fool.
June 1993, Manchester
Sunday morning in my flat in Manchester. My boyfriend tosses the paper to me, saying, “Hey, isn’t this that guy that you liked so much?” and there it is. A full page picture of him looking quizzical and grizzled and a bit contemptuous, a heavy gilt-framed oil painting slightly out of focus behind. The piece is entitled: ‘To My Readers’ and begins, “I have AIDS.” I couldn’t read beyond the second sentence for crying. Of course he was ill when I saw him. I cannot imagine what it cost him to get up, go out, and walk to the restaurant for what turned out to be an entirely pointless rendezvous with some woman who he thought was someone else. A fresh surge of remorse swept through me. It seemed so obvious in retrospect. It was not my faulty memory of what he had looked like the year before. It was my incredible obtuseness in not recognising, even when it was before me plain as day, that there was a man seriously ill, possibly dying. I felt so fucking stupid.
Towards the end of the essay he wrote:
“Not constantly but not inconstantly either, underneath the sentimentality and obstinacy of my attitudes are, as you might expect, a quite severe rage and a vast, a truly extensive terror, anchored in contempt for you and for life and for everything. But let’s keep that beast in its gulf of darkness. Let’s be polite and proper and devoted to life now as we were earlier in our life on his planet.”
And I was reminded again of Ashbery’s poem, which ends: ‘the truth becomes a hole, something one has always known,/ A heaviness in the trees, and no one can say/ Where it comes from, or how long it will stay/ A randomness, a darkness of one’s own.’
The random darkness of Brodkey’s dying was his and his alone.
I nevertheless felt impelled to make one last attempt at connection – a bit futile, a bit late in the day you might say, but anyway. I sent off a letter to Harold expressing I don’t know what – grief, solidarity, an apology, a farewell – what do you tell a man who’s dying?
Sixteen months later, at the end of October 1994, another little New Yorker envelope arrived on my desk, this time from his wife. This is what she wrote:
An absurd thing happened to us. We spent a month in Venice last August and asked the New Yorker to hold our mail until our return. It was only two days ago, that a huge package arrived from the New Yorker with apologies. They had never resumed forwarding the mail and would probably have kept it forever but it had begun to take over the mailroom. Your sweet letter was among the few that Harold wanted me to answer immediately.
We are… glad to hear from you. Harold does have some good days but mostly it’s a matter of good minutes or even good mornings, if he’s lucky. He’s working through it all and printing regularly in the New Yorker. He sends his best. And I send mine.
January 1996, London
When I read in the newspaper that he’d died, I breathed a sigh of relief. Though he said in his ‘To My Readers’ address, “I don’t want to talk about my dyding to everyone, or over and over”, this is exactly what he did. The ‘working through it all’ described by Ellen resulted in a slim book, published a few months after he died, entitled This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death.
Brushes with death were nothing new for Brodkey. With the unconscious perversity of one who never did things by halves, his infrequent illnesses were always almost fatal. Faced with the inevitable, he set about dissecting his own physical decline and attendant emotions in minute detail:
‘If you train yourself as a writer to look at these things – this vulnerability, when the balance is gone and the defences are undone so that you are open to viruses and their shocking haywire excitement – then facing them becomes almost habitual. You will have the real material, and it will arise from this new-to-you dense memory of being jostled by medical and natural violence to the edge of life.’
Don DeLillo, to whom many have passed the mantle of America’s Greatest Living Writer now that Brodkey is dead, described Brodkey’s progress as a writer as “one of the great brave journeys of American literature.” Brodkey’s Moby Dick, which he pursued throughout his life with such fixity of purpose and Ahab-like disregard, was that many-headed hydra of memory and reality – how to capture memories in language, how to work the language until it became sufficiently rich and nuanced that not a single fragment of meaning could slip its fine mesh, how to write life in all its bewildering, chaotic diversity.
‘God as a term for all of whatever reality there is – the universe, all the universes – God as a term used by my soul seems to signal that He loves the present tense even more that consciousness does… Our sense of presentness usually proceeds in waves, with our minds tumbling off into wandering. Usually, we return and ride the wave and tumble and resumed the ride and tumble, and in the act of tumbling we are ourselves, egocentrically, and things are seen and known to us. Actual reality may belong to the present tense, but this falling away and return is what we are [his italics].’
Toward the end, he wrote: “Today I cannot find anything in my life to be proud of – love or courage or acts of generosity. Or my writing. My life has been mostly error. Error and crap.” Then, on the same page, he remembers and captures the memory in writing, the wild light of writing against the wild darkness of approaching death:
“I remember Chartres in 1949 before the stained glass was restored. No one I had spoken to and nothing I’d read had prepared me for the delicacy of the colours, the pale blue, a sky blue really, and the yellow. The transcendent theatre of the nave while the light outside changed moment to moment – clouds blowing over – and the colours brightening or darkening in revolving whorls inside the long, slanted beams of lady-light. I had never been inside a work of genius before.”
October 1996, New Delhi
An American friend sent me a story from The New Yorker written by Brodkey in the last months of his life. The main characters from The Runaway Soul, Wiley and his lover Ora, take a tumble in the hay – well, in the moonlit grass – in ‘Dumbness is Everything.’ It is without doubt some of the best sex that has ever made it to the page. The interiority of it, that thing of being joined and utterly separate, the closeness and the isolation, the constant inner dialogue and the brief fall-from-paradise silence when it is overwhelmed by physical sensation:
‘Ora’s body is a landscape, a climate – or a kind of boat – for my feelings. She doesn’t dance or wriggle or seduce with her body. There is some huge gulf between her body as visible and affecting you and its inward or private reality for her as heat; and that divergence is what you touch.’
It is the story of the stories that we tell ourselves when we have sex. It has narrative drive. ‘Drunkenly, I saw the usefulness of disliking her kiss; its usefulness as a plot device; it goaded me to roll on top of her, a little more down the slope, on the tickling, faintly harsh grass. I want to control the sloppiness of her kiss, turn it into sensual coherence.’ It is the tumbling surf of life-as-fiction and fiction-as-life, the alternate waves of tumbling away from and towards reality that make up our every moment, that tells us who we are. ‘To propose reality as a story rather than a story as reality might at least remind you what a prior thing experience is. And how we hide it in stories.’
For anyone to write about sex with this intense interest is an extraordinarily affirmative act. For someone staring at death, whose body had been riddled by disease and pumped full of drugs, it is almost the definition of hubris. Just take a look at the nouns in the title of his last (posthumous) collection of stories: The World is the Home of Love and Death. How the hell could one not fall in love with him?
November 2000, New Delhi
As well as the mnemonic art of building memory palaces, Matteo Ricci was fascinated by the power of symbols – Chinese ideograms, as well as the written word – the almost heretical power of human marks on the page to transcend time as well as space:
‘Those who will live one hundred generations after us are not yet born, and I cannot tell what sort of people they will be. Yet thanks to the existence of written culture even those living ten thousand generations hence will be able to enter into my mind as if we were contemporaries. As for those worthy figures who lived a hundred generations ago, although they too are gone, yet thanks to the books they left behind we who come after can hear their modes of discourse, observe their grand demeanour, and understand both the good order and the chaos of their times, exactly as if we were living among them.’
The diary entries, scraps of newspaper, letters and notes, no less than Brodkey’s books themselves, are mnemonic talismans recalling him to my mind. The present of things past twining its fingers around those of the present of things present. A hand-holding that is mysteriously healing.
Objectivity is second only to chastity in being the most overrated virtue. How is it possible to lean back and coolly view a loved one’s face with a scientific eye – and why on earth would you want to? So, on second thoughts, I won’t apologise for this highly subjective essay. Someone who fell in love with me once described our first meeting as being like in a novel when you know that the other main character has just turned up. I felt something like that about Harold Brodkey. Reading him evokes a younger being that I am now, who used to go at the world with a deeper, or perhaps just more reckless, give-away attack and joy. Remembering him recalls her, and I miss that person that I used to be, even as I mock and regret her idiocies. Perhaps both reading and remembering are a reminder that the urge to make fiction out of our lives is nothing less that the struggle to wrest meaning from its daily randomness: an adventure, a grand quest and even, at times and for some brave or runaway souls, a heroic one.
Civil Lines: New Writing From India, Volume 5, 2001