My friends, it feels like much more than a week has passed since last Wednesday, which is pretty much the anthem of the year: all time is interminable, yet also passing much too quickly.
Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Grinnell College, my alma mater, inaugurating this years Writers@Grinnell program. (Which I cannot recommend highly enough, writers!) It was strange to wander around the campus and town where I spent so many hours as a wayward youth, to see the train tracks where I broke my arm and the terrible house Dave lived in during his senior year, which at one point had a wall covered in mysterious iridescent slime and also a toilet in the upstairs bathtub. (You’ll be relieved to hear that, after only 6 month’s time, the landlord moved it to the backyard with the other purely decorative backyard toilet.)
(They made a HANDSOME SET.)
(They are not there anymore; I checked.)
It was surprisingly moving to speak to current Grinnell students about the work that I’ve done and still hope to do, and to realize that I do indeed have much to offer young writers at the beginning of their journey. I don’t mean to be either too grandiose or too self-deprecating, it’s just that when you spend all your time, as I do, sitting alone in a converted garage with your dog (who is mad at you because he’s still wearing a cone and still at least halfway blind) and feeling your way towards some sort of narrative, you tend to forget that the years of work have accrued into a kind of knowledge. That you are perhaps feeling your way faster, or more deftly, or with greater depth and strangeness, than you might have done a few years prior.
Anyway, I had a great time. In the preamble to my reading, I mentioned how, at my graduation, the erstwhile Grinnell president told us that though we were all scattering around the world to seek our fortunes, Grinnell would always be our college home. And I almost cried when I said that. But I pulled it together.
Today another good thing happened: my interview with Sarah Weinman—about Nabokov, ambition, the literary mind, and her new book The Real Lolita (part true crime & part Nabokovian history; all excellence)—is live at Electric Lit. Talking with Sarah was a dream; she’s sharp, funny, and has a LOT OF OPINIONS ABOUT NABOKOV, as do I. We had a great time, and I hope you enjoy the fruits of our conversation.
Godspeed, my weary travelers.