Best Friends

A few weeks ago, Ana and I celebrated the fourth anniversary of our wedding day. This was not as easy as it might sound. You see, up to that point we had been batting only about .333 on anniversaries together. We were married on August 8, 2008 (8-08-08), under dramatically tumultuous skies, surrounded by a congregation of dear friends. As you can see (if you click and scroll down). We’ve been delightedly wedded best friends ever since. (We were already best friends, but it was delicious to add in the wedded part.) Our first anniversary, 8-08-09, we were on opposite sides of the planet. Our second anniversary, we made it: 8-08-10, together and celebrating. Our third anniversary, 8-08-11 — oops. Apart again. Couldn’t be helped. On the same continent, but hundreds of miles apart. She in Florida with her mom, me in Massachuetts, with our house, dogs, and daughter. Domestic obligations. Complicated. So we held our breath. Here came spin-the-planet-around-the-sun Number Four. 8-08-12. Would we manage to arrange ourselves this time so that we would hit that day together in the very same geographic location? We did. We were off the plane and driving on our way to our hotel, when I told Ana, “You know, we agreed we wouldn’t get each other any gifts this year. And I didn’t.” “I know,” she said. “I mean, I really didn’t. I’m not just saying that so then I can surprise you by springing something on you that you won’t expect. I truly didn’t get you any gift.” “I know,” she said. “I didn’t either. We agreed.” I fumbled in my computer...

Writing from the Inside

The other night Ana and I drove a few hours to go hear two of the UK’s finest mystery writers, Sophie Hannah and Tana French, read from their newest novels and answer questions. They were both amazing—personable, hilarious, generous, brimming over with intriguing insights into their own processes. For me, the most illuminating moment came later, after the talks, as we filed past with newly-purchased copies for them to sign, and had the briefest chance to engage one-on-one. Ana and I had both just discovered Tana French a few short months ago, and both fell head over heels in love with her writing. Here and there, in her novels, you come to a passage that is so transcendently powerful, time seems to stop, the storyline suspends in midair, and the writing becomes something like a prose-poem, majestically lyrical, rhapsodic, but also with the punch-packing power of a cannon shot. After reading one of those passages, we would both feel like putting the book down and wandering about in a daze, just letting it soak in. The world would look different; it was almost as if we understood the world better, or some human-nature piece of it. Like you couldn’t go back to who you were before you read that passage. It happens in the very opening of her first book, In the Woods, and in the very ending of her third, The Likeness, and every so often in the midst of the narrative in all of them. For both of us, these particular passages had an impact that will never leave us. They left us gasping. So I asked...

Back to the Machete

I’m writing a book. Have been for weeks. Up until today, it’s felt like I was wielding a machete, hacking my way through gigantic hostile jungle plants as I made my way deeper and deeper into a dark, unknown forest. I’ve had the strong sense that I’m headed somewhere, but it’s more a matter of faith than knowledge. I think I’m headed in the right direction. But there is no sensory feedback to corroborate that sense. In fact, the further I hack my way in, the darker it gets, the deeper, and the more I have to hang onto the Ariadne-thread of faith and the blind conviction that, because I’ve done this before and it’s worked, surely to God it’ll work again this time. At least I hope so. Until today. Today I swung the mental machete for hours, sitting at my desk, pacing my home office, gazing out at the garden, the treeline and meadow beyond, the distant ring of mountains, none of it offering a clue as to what I should be pecking onto my laptop keyboard. Must have been eight times, maybe ten (maybe fifty) that I said, “Okay, enough for today, I should pay bills … catch up on email … write a blog post … find some laundry to fold.” But I knew it was only the seduction of faux ennui, the mental lactic acid buildup that comes from genuine neural effort. And then, the foliage broke. By the time I finally quit, to go meet up with Ana and take her to dinner at our favorite place, for the first time (on this...