October 15, 2019

February is the Cruelest Month

Some friends came over for dinner on Saturday, one a writer finishing a novel, who didn’t ask any questions about my novel or my schedule. The last thing he wanted to talk about was writing and I don’t blame him. Another friend, visiting form the city, said he felt sorry for me, isolated out here in the winter—he knew Anne had been in Florida all last week. I tried my best to convince him there was no need to feel bad for me, that I was actually having a good time and glad to be writing full time. New York and all the rest of the world will be waiting when I get back. In the meantime solitude is welcome, and in fact, when you’re really writing there’s a powerful feeling that company of any kind is the enemy. You have to be careful not to make it personal, not to get mad at your wife when she buzzes on the intercom to ask if you can help her open a water bottle, because she’s semi-incapacitated with a cast on her right arm. (Actually, the cast is coming off Friday afternoon, finally.) You have to be careful not to get irritated at a friend who calls with all good intentions, to see how you’re faring.

Haven’t been doing much reading this past week though I have read a hundred pages of a galley—a forthcoming novel by a friend who wants a blurb. The book is good, I think it will be well-received in some quarters and might sell very well, but it’s just not doing it for me. I lost at least one friend over this issue, when I was so fastidious that I let a few minor scruples convince me to withhold my endorsement—which was stupid and self-important. And subsequently I’ve lost my self-respect once or twice endorsing books by friends that I didn’t think were very good. Not sure what to do with this one.

On a happier note, just got a hardcover copy of a newly-published novel which has a blurb from me on the back cover. I’ve never met Cristina Alger, so there was never a nagging moral issue about giving her a blurb. Her novel The Darlings is one of the best literary products of the financial crisis to date (right up there with Adam Haslett’s Union Atlantic.) Alger writes very knowingly about Wall Street, about investment banks and the law firms that serve them, as well as about that rarefied Manhattan social world that still chooses to refer to itself as “society.” Great book. Smart with heart.

Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory was very good, almost at the level of the Elementary Particles. And I was very happy to learn that James Salter is publishing a new novel, allegedly this year—it’s in the Knopf fall lineup, but he’s still laboring away so we shall see. I think I set him back a few hours this past weekend. Among other things we drank some 1995 Domaine Dujac Gevrey Chambertin Combottes, a gorgeous wine that’s just beginning to hit its peak.

Another blank page, this one with the heading Sixteen. No idea what I’m going to do next, although I’m pretty confident something will come.