My neighbor was consulting a map. He was trying to figure out how to get from Portland to Folsom, California. Everything I say 1) is true, and 2) happened in a bar.
I said, "Hey, is that a map?" I did not say, "Wow, a map appears in the first sentence of my novel." (Nor, "I'm a novelist.")
He replied in the affirmative, that it was, indeed, a map he consulted.
"Is it," I continued, "a map such as a person might use to calculate how to get from here to there, North to South, East to West? In short, is it a map like a person might use if, for example, they've gotten involved with their high school history teacher and they need to hit the road, post-haste?"
He handed the map to me. It was a W.A.C., a World Aeronautical Chart. My neighbor was an airplane pilot.
I had my topic for today's blog: the fundamental difference between the East and the West. In the West, people refer to maps for directions, while in the East they refer to Dunkin Donuts. I told my neighbor my idea. He wasn't too impressed.
It would have been a wicked good blog. Anyway, the pilot gave me the map as a souvenir.
Eventually, I left the bar.
I was almost home when a mime stepped out from behind a Honda Insight. She made some frustrated gestures. It was clear she had an agenda. For the longest time I thought she was trapped inside a glass box, but eventually I got her point. She felt that literary fiction had become obscure and rather elitist. Her entrapment was rhetorical, a metaphor. She asked me to defend myself. I wasn't too interested in defending myself. For one thing, implicit in her complaint was the idea that there was something wrong with elitism. Au contraire, my French friend. However, in the spirit of compassion, I listed a handful of works that spoiled a reader's palette for blander stuff. They are:
- The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
- The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Open Secrets by Alice Munro
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen
- Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
- The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
That shut her up.
Books mentioned in this post
Justin Tussing is the author of The Best People in the World: A Novel