Thursday, August 16, 2012

One True Thing


I am in Mexico for which I am everlastingly grateful.  Thank you, Mexico, for letting me cross my own border and stay in the shelter of these hills in the State of Guanajuato.  I should, perhaps, be on my knees, except that my knees are getting older, and one does not work too well.

I have been reading Andre Dubus, not the son, the father, who is nearly perfecto except that he had an accident and lost one of his limbs and couldn’t straighten the other.  It caused him pain.  It left him alone (too much, I think).  This man, who viewed writing as a kind of sacrament, hung on for many years until his heart finally quit.

When I think of Andre Dubus, I remember his fondness for Hemingway, who wanted, at baseline, to write “one true thing.”  When I think of Andre, I think of his great title, We Don’t Live Here Anymore, and I am reminded of the many cases where someone was at risk and someone was stalking and dangerous.  And I think Dubus was correct in everything he said of the man who had little malice but persisted with little insight into his own motives.

Recently, I have been reading Dubus’ Meditations from a Movable Chair.  It was clear he loved his children, clear he was lonely, clear he was Catholic. When I read Dubus, I am the woman in his memoir who opens the kitchen door and overhears him singing while running uphill.  “Right on!” I call.

He responds that writing is a lot like praying, and I recall a good poem.

Mostly, lately, I have been thinking about Hemingway and Hopper together.  For all of Hopper’s paintings and later recognition, he wanted to simply paint sunlight on the side of a building.  I’m thinking writers and artists should stick to simple problems.  Asking about boundaries between souls might be too much.  A writer needs to ask herself for “one true thing” as an artist tries to paint sunlight out of shadows on a wall.

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