“Titles have a way of coming in waves. There was a time a few years back when it seemed like vast numbers of books were being published on the subject of secret lives, as in THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, THE SECRET LIFE OF BUILDINGS, THE SECRET LIVES OF WORDS, etc. Our literature seems to hold a parallel obsession with vanishing, which involves of course any number of titles involving the words “Disappear” or “Vanishing” or “Lost.”
But no trend that I’ve ever noticed has seemed quite so pervasive as the daughter phenomenon. Seriously, once you start noticing them, they’re everywhere. A recent issue of Shelf Awareness had ads for both THE SAUSAGE MAKER’S DAUGHTERS and THE WITCH’S DAUGHTER. I’m Facebook friends with the authors of THE HUMMINGBIRD’S DAUGHTER, THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER, THE CALLIGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER, and THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER, and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.”—The ___’s Daughter by Emily St. John Mandel (via millionsmillions)
Eleven years ago today, I was in Cinque Terre with my friends Brian and Esther, walking the coast path between the fishing villages. I remember the path taking us through olive groves. I don’t know why they’d let Americans do that unless they didn’t really need those olives. It was hot and windy like today and we stopped to eat small yellow apples and biscuits and cheese that we’d packed in bags from the pharmacy below our pensione in Rome. We must have been going south, for we kept the sea to our right.
Ten years ago, I was somewhere in London with Brian again, another spring break. It was a whole week, but all I remember is visiting the National Gallery and seeing some show in the West End starring Anna Paquin and walking everywhere in the rain, counting Pret a Mangers and discussing globalization and Shostakovich. Those years, we wanted someone to convince us. We were waiting for them, believed they would.
Eight years ago, London again. I knew my way around Bath, was holding on to my thin folder of stories waiting for something to happen to them, or me. When Bath got too quiet I would take the train into London and stay on the floors of people I knew at London House and Goodenough. Joanie was in town to visit and the Goodenough pack took us to some bar in Camden Town. My mother had sent me an early card with a button that read: KISS ME IT’S MY BIRTHDAY, and though it was the wrong holiday, several strangers bought me Guinness, obliged. Joanie sworn, I tilted my chin for them, giddy and half-wishing for someone to call me on the lie.
Last year, I was in Somerville, walking the bikepath with leftovers and an old friend, lamenting my new gray hairs and sharing a decidedly un-Irish 24 of Newcastle. The moon may have been involved.
I am always in the wrong [lowercase] country for this holiday, walking around, feeling like I belong there more than wherever I’ve come from. This is not quite wanderlust: it’s more accidental than that, misdirected, and I don’t know if there are patron saints for accidental acts. Whoever knows the saints, tell me.
Last semester, Pate led a discussion on why we write. What was literally actually — come on guys! — motivating you. I should mention that he is the best teacher. Better than Marilynne Robinson, definitely.
The boys were the first to speak, and both said they did everything for sex. I believe a…