In Ann Arbor, I’d been known as “the Alaska guy,” which now felt like a pose. Feeling too Alaska for the MFA book-world had supplanted how much of my life I’d felt too book for Alaska. Maybe that was why I’d been unable to progress on my novel. I’d left this place, after all. Had I ever really loved it, or just the way it let me represent myself?
So here’s the thing: I didn’t learn how to diagram a sentence until I was twenty-eight.
I had just enough experience working with teenagers to know they’re merciless bullshit detectors. I also remembered how my classmates and I had treated some of our teachers—teachers who would now be my colleagues.
Sometimes, you circle and you circle, and you never find the point. But here is mine. I don’t know who will read my novel. I don’t know in what numbers. To ask these questions is to drive myself insane. So here is a better question to drive myself crazy as the days count down. Why do I read in the first place? Why do you?
Sometimes, not often, I’ve found the writing of a story or a novel to resemble Nansen’s smooth and well-planned voyage. Sometimes I know, roughly, where I’m going; sometimes I can also guess the routes by which I might reach that destination. Usually, though, my experience has more closely resembled that of the hapless souls aboard the Tegetthoff.