Monday, December 11, 2006

2 Birthday Boys & Reassembling the Manuscript

Today is the birthday of two Michigan-born writers, both of whom now live in Montana. Tom McGuane was born on December 11, 1939 in Wyandotte and was raised in the Detroit area. Jim Harrison was born on December 11, 1937 in Grayling, where his father was an agricultural agent. Both attended Michigan State University.

To celebrate, we'll begin with an excerpt from Tom McGuane's novel, Something to be Desired (Random House, 1984):

"A great blue norther made up and came down off the High Line. Lucien went into town and bought some duck loads for his sixteen-gauge. He admired the town for its symmetry in the bend of the big river, for its smoky cheer in the face of this raid of arctic weather. Then he went off and hunted ducks in a place where the spring creek, having arisen in one small eye of a swamp, wound out in a long ribbon of steam toward the river a couple of miles away. He walked along while the deep cold made a bas-relief map of his own skull, exposing bone through flesh and reminding him that cold, not heat, is the natural order. Suddenly his small white frame house seemed a pale, brave island in eternity. A more analytical person might have concluded that this solitary regimen was a good and happy one for him. But he was old enough to know that loneliness, like some disturbance, would begin to form."

And finish with a small poem by Jim Harrison from his Michigan days, as reprinted in The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1998):


I will walk down to the marina
on a hot day and not go out to sea.

I will go to bed and get up early,
and carry too much cash in my wallet.

On Memorial Day I will visit the graves
of all those who died in my novels.

If I have become famous, I'll wear a green
janitor's suit and row a wooden boat.

From the key ring on my belt will hang
thirty-three keys that open no doors.

Perhaps I'll take all of my grandchildren
to Disneyland in a camper but probably not.

One day standing in a river with my fly rod
I''ll have the courage to admit my life.

In a one-room cabin at night I'll consign
photos, all tentative memories to the fire.

And you my loves, few as there have been, let's lie
and say it could never have been otherwise.

So that: we may glide off in peace, not howling
like orphans in this endless century of war.


I'm going to reassemble the manuscript tonight, add a note or-two to the acknowledgments page, do another read-through (tomorrow?) and get it off in the mail by Friday. It will be good to move on to the next project.

Or to sleep, be a father, walk the dogs, etc.

The days are stacked against what we think we are.


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