Even now, as I write this, I can still feel that tightness. And I want you to feel it--the wind coming off the river, the waves, the silence, the wooded frontier. You're at the bow of a boat on the Rainy River. You're twenty-one years old, you're scared, and there's a hard squeezing pressure in your chest. What would you do? Would you jump? Would you feel pity for yourself? Would you think about your family and your childhood and your dreams and all you're leaving behind? Would it hurt? Would it feel like dying? Would you cry, as I... Read more »
Linda was nine then, as I was, but we were in love...it had all the shadings and complexities of mature adult love and maybe more, because there were not yet words for it, and because it was not yet fixed to comparisons or chronologies or the ways by which adults measure such things...I just loved her. Even then, at nine years old, I wanted to live inside her body. I wanted to melt into her bones -- that kind of love.
("I love you," someone says, and instantly we begin to wonder - "Well, how much?" - and when the answer comes - "With my whole heart" - we then wonder about the wholeness of a fickle heart.) Our lovers, our husbands, our wives, our fathers, our gods - they are all beyond us.
The goal, I suppose, any fiction writer has, no matter what your subject, is to hit the human heart and the tear ducts and the nape of the neck and to make a person feel something about the characters are going through and to experience the moral paradoxes and struggles of being human.
In any war story, but especially a true one, it's difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen. What seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told that way. The angles of vision are skewed. When a booby trap explodes, you close your eyes and duck and float outside yourself. .. The pictures get jumbled, you tend to miss a lot. And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as... Read more »
Well, right now I'm not dead. But when I am, it's like...I don't know, I guess it's like being inside a book that nobody's reading. [...] An old one. It's up on a library shelf, so you're safe and everything, but the book hasn't been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody'll pick it up and start reading.
Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories ar for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.
By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others. You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain.
It's not just the embarrassment of tears. That's part of it, no doubt, but what embarrasses me much more, and always will, is the paralysis that took my heart. A moral freeze: I couldn't decide, I couldn't act, I couldn't comport myself with even a pretense of modest human dignity.
For Rat Kiley, I think, facts were formed by sensation, not the other way around, and when you listened to one of his stories, you'd find yourself performing rapid calculations in your head, subtracting superlatives, figuring the square root of an absolute and then multiplying by maybe.
They did not submit to the obvious alternative, which was simply to close the eyes and fall. So easy, really. Go limp and tumble to the ground and let the muscles unwind and not speak and not budge until your buddies picked you up and lifted you into the chopper that would roar and dip its nose and carry you off to the world. A mere matter of falling, yet no one ever fell. It was not courage, exactly; the object was not valor. Rather, they were too frightened to be cowards.
In the attic, a warhead no doubt burns. Everything is combustible. Faith burns. Trust burns. Everything burns to nothing and even nothing burns. . . . And when there is nothing, there is nothing worth dying for and when there is nothing worth dying for, there is only nothing.