Wednesday, June 20, 2012

God Bless America

I didn't pick Steve Almond's God Bless America because we're nearing the 4th of July (although that is something I would do, if I were more organized). Rather, I saw it recommended somewhere by another author I like, and I've read some of his stories here and there.

I loved this collection. I read it in about three days, and that was with forcing myself to slow down and savor it. I just kept wanting to turn the pages, to be surprised and intrigued by his lovely, misguided characters. And oh, they are so misguided. Honest and human and funny and sad....these are the kind of stories that remind me of people I know, doing stupid things, but trying, really trying. These are the kind of stories I strive to write.

Speaking of much-loved authors, today I had the privilege of seeing Richard Ford read from his new novel Canada. Although I arrived at the Portland Public Library dripping with sweat and with huge-frizzed hair, I sat, sipped my (ridiculously) hot coffee, and listened to this master, this absolute pro, read and answer questions. I loved Ford's Independence Day--but I love his stories even more. Maybe because I mostly write stories and the way he shapes his narrative just takes my breath away. It was interesting to hear him talk about the control he maintains over his work, and how he sometimes wonders if the work suffers because he doesn't let it get away from him. I sometimes wonder the same. And even though I came back to find a parking ticket on my car (I paid the stupid meter..but I didn't read the instructions and I didn't leave the little receipt on my dashboard...blasted technology....), I will never forget what he said: If you aren't doing this because it's important, why are you doing it? You only get one life.

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