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Things my parents did for me

Things my parents did for me

The golden spines of National Geographic lined the room-wide bookshelf in my parents' living room when I was growing up. National Geographic, if not watched, will accumulate to the point at which the structure of a building will not support its weight. This is why you can buy old copies for twenty-five cents at the library, and why there were stacks of them in the art classroom at my high school, and why my parents let me destroy their entire collection.

I cannot remember why I did this, but I spent many Saturday afternoons (I was a strange child) sitting in my room cutting the pictures out of massive quantities of National Geographics and Smithsonian Magazines. Some of the pictures I pasted to the wall of my bedroom. This is how you pay your parents back for the love and ridiculous amounts of money they've invested in your well-being: you ruin their house. ANYWAY, I filled two binders with these pictures. Every three years or so, I remember they exist and I look through them. I still don't remember why I did it, or why I chose the pictures I chose. But every one of them still fills me with a sense of strangeness, of mystery, and of joy. And they remind of me those afternoons alone in my room, just thinking.

I've never written a story based on any of those photos. But several of the photos appear in my first novel, and one of the characters undertakes a similar project of destruction of old magazines, which becomes quite meaningful to him. There are two questions people usually ask when you say you're a writer (until you learn not to say that). One is, "Where do you get your ideas?" and the other is, "Is your book autobiographical?" The answer to the first is, "My parents had the world on their bookshelves," and the answer to the second is, "Yes, but only in the odd detail, which has been reshaped into something else, so that you'd never know, nor does it matter."

Had my parents not subscribed to all these magazines and let me cut them up, I might never have learned about Maxfield Parrish. And if I had never learned about him, I would never have had a term for the particular color of the sky at dawn and dusk in October - Parrish blue.

This is all a roundabout way of saying: it is the best time of year, and I'm so happy about it.


Images: Maxfield Parrish's The Lantern Bearers, pictured at the top of this post, was published in the December 10, 1910 issue of Collier's magazine. The Smithsonian article, "The Beguiling Art of Maxfield Parrish" appeared in the July 1999 issue, featuring an illustration from The Arabian Nights on the left, and Moonlight Night on the right.

Fargh! it sticks in my vitals

Fargh! it sticks in my vitals

Pain

Pain