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January in Bay Ridge

View of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from Shore Road, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Dear friends,


2023 feels like an accelerating train, with curves ahead for which I pray it will slow down. Just as it began, I got two manuscripts in shape for their next incarnation. Meditations for a New Century went back as corrected page proofs, in hope of publication by March. Woo-hoo! And Christina Stead's The Man Who Loved Children, my contribution to Ig Publishing's amazing Bookmarked Series, went off in its final, unedited manuscript form to the publisher.


That cleared the way for me to come to New York in the dead of winter to renew my acquaintance with my literary circle and to stuff myself with a month's worth of culture high and low. I am subletting a place in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, hardly at the center of the action but full of the stew of languages and people that make up this jumble of a city. Don came with me for the first weekend, when we celebrated my birthday with a visit to the Hopper exhibit at the Whitney and to the Met for the soaring, rarely performed Fedora (no, not the hat), by an Italian I'd never heard of, Umberto Giordano. We also learned that NYC, for all its cutting edge, is far from accommodating electric vehicles; getting the new Chevy Bolt charged up for Don's drive back to CT was a challenge. (And yes, a first-world problem, though as I regulate this apartment's heat by opening windows, I'm feeling the fossil-fuel waste that we disguise more easily in the burbs.)


When I'm not taking the R train north and west for readings, museums, music, and gabfests, I'm planning another, late-winter junket that keeps growing. En route to the AWP conference in Seattle, where Meditations will launch, I'm doing some events in my hometown of St. Louis as well as Columbia, MO; Cedar Rapids, IA; Chicago, IL; and Detroit, MI. All of these are book events where I'll read from The Misconceiver in an effort to raise funds for abortion rights in places where they are seriously under threat. I'm acting as my own publicist for these events, a role I don't relish—and don't get me started on the publicist I originally hired. If anyone reading this has useful contacts, please give me and them a shout-out! The schedule is gradually emerging on my Events page. The whole trip will finish up on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan archipelago, where I've never been but where my editor lives and where we'll have a book discussion for the folks—the Orcasians?—there.


Finally, a little word about these two books I sent off. Neither is like anything I've put together before. Meditations is a collection of nonlinear essays that follow the drift of their own meaning to places I try not to anticipate beforehand. I'm hoping they will spark similar drifts of thought in readers. You'll find a couple of these in journal form on my Short Stuff page. And the Christina Stead book is part of a wild, totally literary idea by Robert Lasner at Ig Publishing—to pick a book that has gotten under one's skin in some ineradicable way, and talk about it personally, autobiographically, with all the nerdy obsession that an incurable reader can have with a book. Mine's the weird, amazing novel The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead. In rereading and writing about it, I discovered things not just about that book but about myself that I'd never known. Like, for instance, that I think the cure for sentimentality is love. Right?


I hope your year is moving along at a happy and not too breathless clip. If you are in any of the places I've mentioned, let's raise a glass.


Happy 2023,