Category Archives: American literature

Harriet Doerr’s Consider This, Señora

Harriet Doerr’s second novel, (following her 1984 National Book Award-winning The Stones of Ibarrra, Consider This, Señor, (1993), is also focused on expatriate American characters experiencing life in rural Mexico. Sue Ames, a recently divorced painter, and Bud Loomis, a real estate developed who has fled tax liabilities in Arizona, but the remnants of a hacienda, including the ruins of a mansion. Both plan to build houses for themselves and to finance their houses by selling other lots. (They give the lot with the ruins to the still influential scion of the family that once, before the revolution, ran everything farther than the eye could see.)


Sue enjoys the vistas and builds a comfortable house. Bud has had to transfer his raison d’être from accumulating dollars to accumulating pesos, but remains dedicated to the pursuit of quick profits, and builds a boxy “functional” house.

While observing a fiesta, Sue meets another American divorcée, Frances Bowles, who gathers local color professionally (for guidebooks). Frances is enamored (and loudly banging) Paco. She decides that she will build a house for herself and another for her widowed 79-year-old mother Ursula next to Sue’s and makes it her base. “When Fran told her mother about Paco, Ursula almost believed she had already met and been charmed by him. He was the third excessively charming man her daughter had loved” and Ursula has forebodings he will slip away as his predecessors did.

The novel switches from expatriate American to expatriate American, with Ursula and Bud having the most extensive dealings with the locals, particularly the priest, the faded aristocratic lawyer, and the girls who work in their houses. Fran is preoccupied with the elusive Paco, and Sue largely fades out of view through the middle of the novel, but plays a central role in the end. The book is considerably more “about” the relationships that develop between expatriate American and Mexican characters than those between the four expatriate Americans living fairly close together above the town. Doerr does not condescend to/about the Mexican characters in the manner of the greatest Anglophone expatriate in Mexico novel, Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano or trowel on mystic projections as D. H. Lawrence did in The Plumed Serpent. The alternation between puzzlement and bemusement the Mexican characters have for the strange behavior of the foreigners who have set up lives in their neighborhood ring true to me. The octogenarian novelist was not sentimental about the characters she created, but was affectionate toward them (even Bud).

Harriett Doerr - Photo.jpeg

The book is not as searing as the title story from The Tiger in the Grass, but is a sure-footed exploration of lives that intersect more than they connect. Doerr’s ear for different ways of speaking was as keen as her eye for telling detail of landscape, architecture, or raiment. For me, she provides the image of an ideal mother maintaining an interior life of her own through and beyond a lengthy marriage. I realize this is an particular projection of my own, but I can’t imagine anyone reading her work not agreeing that she wrote with lucidity and concision. (I especially enjoy how the very last line is set up!)


©2003, 2018, Stephen O. Murray



Harriet Doerr’s The Tiger in the Grass

I seem especially to like work by writers who began serious writing in their mid-60s, that is, after reaching what traditionally was “retirement age.” It’s not that I identify with those who were silent until then, honing their memories. Some of it may be the burnished, lucid prose they tend to write. The best single example is Norman MacLean who was in his 70s when A River Runs Through It seemed to burst out of nowhere. (He followed it with burrowing into the firefighter disaster in Young Men and Fire.) The writer who produced a stream of novels about pasts not her own as well as her own past was Penelope Fitzgerald.. The Tiger in the Grass is more akin to the gleanings into a very slender volume of short stories of Fitzgerald’s last book The Means of Escape.

Harriet Doerr (née Harriet Green Huntington: yes, those Huntingtons: her paternal grandfather’s estate is now the Huntington Library and Gardens, though she does not mention that) left her studies at Stanford University to marry in 1930, and accompanied her husband to Mexico, where they moved to live fulltime during the 1950s. After his death, she returned to complete her degree. Forty-plus years older than other creative writing students, her work silenced any questions about her place in the (highly competitive) program. I suspect that she also silenced the young woman who asked if she had been happy throughout the forty-two years of her marriage: “I never heard of anyone being happy for forty-two years. And would a person who was happy for forty-two years write a book?”

Harriett Doerr - Photo.jpeg

Her first novel, The Stones of Ibarra published when she was 84, was a best-seller, won the National Book Award, and was adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame production. Stones is more a collection of stories based on her experiences with her husband who ran a mine in Mexico than a novel, but Cosider This, Seora, her second book, is novelistic in structure, interweaving the stories of four American expatriated to rural Mexico.

The central collection of fragments of fictionalized memoir, or bits not included in from the autobiographical fiction of The Stones of Ibarra, A Tiger in the Grass, have the lyrical but unsentimental recalling of sights, sounds, smells, and characters of her Mexican life — I mean of Sara Everton’s… These most directly repeat the magic of her earlier books.



Despite my interest in (and experience of) Mexico, it is the two longer pieces that begin and end the book that make me shiver in admiration. (Knocking readers out was not her intention. She may make readers cry, but her narrators can convey heartbreaking details without seeming to flinch, let alone cry. Like “Big, two-hearted river.”)

The title story (or essay) juxtaposes Doerr’s experiences of growing up in Pasadena , going to Smith College for a year, then to Stanford, meeting her future husband, an engineering student, going to Mexico, returning to Stanford and hesitatingly starting to write juxtaposed with shards of a son Michael’s experience with cancer. The concluding story is a memoir (or in the form of a memoir) of a nanny who came from England to raise twins whose birth caused their mother’s death and two older daughters. Edie stayed on in California, relatively neglected by those she raised until on her deathbed.

In choosing precise details that establish character in these two nonfiction summaries of long lives, Doerr shares Penelope Fitzgerald’s strength. This is also the case for a story (seemingly written in the Stanford creative writing program) that seems the least autobiographically based, “The extinguishing of Great Aunt Alice.” It is the most comic piece in the volume, though the comedy is quite dark.

My favorite pair of the six Mexican pieces, “Way stations” and “The watchman at the gate” also have slivers of dark humor and, like “Aunt Alive” are more plot-driven than the rest of the contents of the book. There is a lot of pain and loss , a lot of death and cancer, in the book, but the tone is not bleak. There is no self-pity. Doerr exults experiences from her long life (she was 85 when the book was published in 1995; she died last year; glaucoma prevented her maintaining her sentence-a-day pace after the death, also in 1995, of the son for whom she wrote), precisely detailed memories of sleeves of rain, low tide on a long-ago summer day, the walls of the sleeping porch in her childhood home, etc.)

Although there is not really enough material to fill even a small-sized book, the best parts are so luminous that it would be a shame not to have them gathered together. The first two pieces of the section “First Work” and the wispy first two pieces of “Memory” strike me as padding (the reason my overall rating is four stars, but the pieces I’ve mentioned definitely rate with five stars). However, the title (nonfiction) story delivers more than most long novels do, without telling the reader what to think or what to feel. “Edie,” the last tale would, I think, have satisfied Flaubert and is less sentimental than his “A Simple Heart.”

Doerr did not write sentimentally about any of the deaths of those she remembered. I began reading the book the night before my mother’s funeral and it helped me focus away from the deathbed at which I had been sitting, helpless, to the memories of my mother’s childhood that I elicited a few years before her death (also at 92). From admiration for Stones of Ibarra, which I read at a less fraught time, I’m confident that the best parts of The Tiger in the Grass would have impressed me at any time, but it is an especially good book for those on or just coming off death vigils.


©2003,2018, Steohen O. Murray

OI’ll get back to northern Slavs soon!)

Writers most important to me, then and now


Long, long ago, when I was finishing high school the (then-) living writers who were important to me, whose new work I’d seek out were


John Cheever (Falconer)

Vladimir Nabokov (Invitation to a Beheading)

Katherine Anne Porter (Pale Horse, Pale Rider; Noon Wine)

Philip Roth (Goodbye Columbus)

Jean-Paul Sartre (The Flies)

Mishima Yukio (After the Banquet)

Gore Vidal (Burrr)

Pär Lagerkvist (The Death of Ahasuerus)

Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange)

John O’Hara (Pal Joey)

Walker Percy (The Moviegoer)


The last three are mostly forgotten (by others) now, but not IMO reprehensible choices. Only one of those on this list  is still living, and he is retired.


I made another list in 2000 with the now-dead Penelope Fitzgerald, Michel Tournier, Muriel Spark, Mary Lee Settle, plus the still living (in 2018) Matthew Stadler, Hanif Kureishi,  and Alan Hollinghurst, and Mark Salzman, and some writers who are also on my current list.


Michael Ondatjee (Coming Through Slaughter)

Edmund White (Nocturnes for the King of Naples)

Andrew Sean Greer (Less)

Peter Cameron (The City of Your Final Destination)

Josip Novakovich (April Fool’s Day)

Louise Erdrich (The Master Butcher’s Singing Club)

Joan Silber (Fools)

Elizabeth Spencer (The Salt Line)

Chang-Rae Lee (Native Speaker)

Alan Gurganus (Adult Art)

Rabih Almeddine (KoolAIDS)

André Aciman (Call Me by Your Name)


A new collection of often harrowing, sometimes very funny stories by Josip Novakovich

I think that Croatian-Canadian author Josip Novakovich (1956-) is the greatest living writer of short stories. He has also published powerful collections of essays and what I consider The Great Croatian Novel, April Fool’s Day.


This high esteem does not mean that I like everything he writes. Indeed, I hated the last story in his 2017 collection Heritage of Smoke, “In the Same Boat,” the only one not set in Europe or North America (but on the Pacific Ocean south of the US/Mexico border). And I didn’t much like the penultimate story, ‘Remote Love,” which centers on inventor Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), who was born in a Serbian village in what is now Croatia (but then was part of the Hapsburg/Austro-Hungarian Empire), attended high school in German in Karlovac, which is also now in Croatia, moved on to Vienna, Prague, and, eventually New York, where Novakovich’s story is set.

Enough about stories I disliked. I think that “Acorns” is a great work, centering on a UN translator who is disgusted by the complicity with Serbian genocide of the UN “peacekeepers,” has very harrowing adventures as a prisoner of a Serbian unit, and after finding her husband who has come searching for, spends months in a Bosnian unit. Living in the aftermath of rape is one important aspect of the story—not just for Ana.

The title story, which centers on an unexpected inheritance is the funniest story in the collection. The humor is not entirely dark, as, for instance that in “White Mustache” is. It recalls brothers who were swept up (drafted) by opposing forces during WWII, the fascist Utashas who outdid the Nazis in atrocities, and the anti-fascist partisans (chetniks). Both militias forced young men into their ranks (as later, in El Salvador). Let’s say that the narrator learns why his elderly relatives believe in ghosts…

“Be Patient” in which a child is overdosed with experimental (American) measles vaccine and gets her wish to adopt a dog only posthumously. “Dutch Treat” is an example of the maxim “No good deed goes unpunished,” when a Dutchman named Martin who had been among the UN “peacekeepers” unknowingly aided Serbians (Army of Srpska) to massacre Croatians at Srebrinca in 1995. In New York City he meets a man who remembers him from there and then. His aid gets him in very serious trouble in NYC.

“When the Saints Come” is more typical American short story fare about the dissolution of a marriage, though set mostly in Jerusalem. “Eclipse Near Golgotha” goes back the crucifixion of Christ, focusing on the unrepentant thief crucified beside Jesus. “The Wanderer” grew up in East Jerusalem and passes through Croatia.

“Strings” is a mock-heroic tale of multi-ethnic (Russian, Swiss-French, Croatian) students exterminating a rat. Soccer hooliganism provides a background for some more very dark humor in Ideal Goalie” and the sardonic, surprising “Crossbar,” which also involved grizzly bears given the Zagreb zoo by (Clinton-era) America.

There is a lot of displacement, a lot of wariness, more than a little violence in Novakovich’s stories. Though disdaining any objective history, the characters (OK, especially the Serbian ones) nourish ancient grudges against “Turks,” which they take out on Bosnian Muslims. (Bosnians converted to Islam during Ottoman times, but were not Turks.) This has continued with Albanian Kosovars (the vast majority of the people in Kosovo, though Serbs used to dominating everyone else within the Yugoslavia they claim to perpetuate as one region after another breaks loose).

Though I recommend stopping at page 182, there are alternately horrifying and moving stories before that point. In particular, I think that “Acorns” should have a very wide readership, by no means limited to those interested in what happened in Bosnia, since similar things continue to happen in “civil wars” in various places.

(BTW, after many years teaching in the US, the author of Shopping for a Better Country  moved on to Concordia University in Montréal in 2009.)

©2017, Stephen O. Murray


The Steinbeck centenary + 15 writeoff homepage

I hosted Steinbeck writeoffs on epinions for his 99th and 100th birthday. I, alas, don’t have files for most of the 99th, but included four from the 100th with my own old and new discussions of Steinbeck books.

Following links to the three general ones, is a list in order of first publication by Steinbeck:

The Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California

The Portable Steinbeck

Movies based on Steinbeck writing


The Pastures of Heaven (1932)

The Red Pony (1933)

To a God Unknown (1933)

Tortilla Flat (1935)-Mridula

In Dubious Battle (1936)

Of Mice and Men (1937)

Sea of Cortez (1942, 1969)—Ed Grover

The Moon in Down (1942

The Wayward Bus (1947)—Alex Fraser

The Pearl (1947)—Ed Williamson

Burning Bright (1950)

East of Eden (1952)

Sweet Thursday (1954)

The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957)

Once There Was a War (1958)

The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)

America and Americans (1966)

Journal of a Novel The East of Eden Letters (1969[1951]

Viva Zapata! (1975[1952])

King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976)—Peter Warn


What Steinbeck hoped would be his “most important work”

Peter Warn contributed the following to the Steinbeck Centenary Writeoff I organized on epinions and has kindly given his permission for its revival here.

Pros: Clear version of influential, enjoyable tales. Insight into Steinbeck’s thinking.

Cons: Steinbeck didn’t finish it.

The Bottom Line: Steinbeck provides an engaging version of the Arthurian legends. His letters about the project provide fascinating insights into his obsession with stories that brightened his youth.


John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1962), but he died in 1968 before he could realize his destiny. The author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men left unfinished his version of Sir Thomas Malory’s compilation of the legends about King Arthur and his noble knights. It was this work that Steinbeck described in 1957 as “destined to be the largest and I hope the most important work I have ever undertaken.”


The considerable chunk of that work that Steinbeck was able to complete, posthumously published as The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, follows the familiar parts of the story of the Arthur from his being raised by Merlin to his using the power of Excalibur to unite England with the help of his noble knights. He tells the stories in modern English, while always suggesting a magical time long ago and far away. He also fleshes out much of the story that might now be less familiar, from varied quests by numerous knights to Lancelot’s adventures, which tend to be overshadowed by his betrayal of Arthur. Steinbeck’s tale ends just as Lancelot and Queen Guinevere are about to commit the adultery that will ruin Camelot. Because he was not able to complete it, Steinbeck’s delightful presentation of the legends ends with his tantalizing suggestion in a letter to his agent that what he was planning to write about Arthur would be “strange and different”.

Steinbeck sought to introduce the Arthurian legends to contemporary readers whom he worried might otherwise get their understanding of the myths from comic books. Arthur lives at the end of Steinbeck’s book, which is not an irony brought about by the author’s death. He sought to remind the world that the work most commonly called Le Morte D’Arthur is about much more. The original title for the Malory manuscripts Steinbeck interprets was The Birth, Life and Acts of King Arthur, of his Noble Knights of the Round Table, Their Marvelous Enquests and Adventures, the Achieving of the San Greal, and in the End Le Morte D’Arthur with the Dolorous Death and Departing Out of this World of All of Them.

Malory’s stories hold power over readers, even over readers who are familiar with them only through the varied works they have inspired, from the musical Camelot to the DC Comics version, Camelot 3000. The characters are like dinosaurs: larger-than-life figures who are gone but who captivate us because their lingering presence suggests worlds full of unknown wonders. Steinbeck’s graceful retellings capture the magic, chivalry and intrigue that give the stories their power.

Merlin knows that he and Arthur are destined to suffer betrayals by the women they love, but he knows too that they are powerless to escape their fates: “Every man who has ever lived holds tight to the belief that for him alone the laws of probability are canceled out by love. Even I, who know beyond doubt that my death will be caused by a silly girl, will not hesitate when that girl passes by. Therefore you will marry Guinevere. You do not want advice–only agreement.”

Although they cannot change their natures, the characters have keen understandings of them. Arthur’s half-sister Morgan Le Fay, for instance, comes close to seducing Lancelot because she knows what he wants:


With power you can try on cities like hats, or smash them when you tire of them. Power attracts loyalty and requires none. The will to power keeps a baby suckling grimly long after he is fed, counsels a child to take his brother’s toy, reaps a gaggling harvest of concupiscent girls. What drives a knight through tortures to his prize or death? The power of fame. Why does a man heap up property he cannot use? Why does a conqueror take countries he will never see? What makes the hermit grovel in the black filth of a cell but the promise of power, or at least influence in heaven? And do the humble mad saints reject the power of intercession? What crime is there that does not become a virtue in the hands of power? And is not virtue itself a kind of power? Philanthropy, good deeds, charity, are they not mortgages on the currency of future power? It is the one possession that does not flag or become tedious, for there is never enough of it and an old man in whom the juices of all other desires are dried up will crawl on his tottering knees toward his grave still grabbing with frantic hands for power.

Much of Steinbeck’s story follows Lancelot, who comes across as a charming crank on whom the burden of being universally hailed “the greatest knight in Christendom” does not always rest easily. This Lancelot complains at length and with apparently unintended humor that women are always demanding that he perform some bit of gallantry for them. Even so, his honor demands that he ask every woman he encounters if there is something he can do for her.

The emphasis on Lancelot in what is supposed to be Arthur’s story seems odd, until one reaches Steinbeck’s letters about the project. His literary agent, Elizabeth Otis, and his editor, Case Horton, share much of Steinbeck’s correspondence about the project to which he devoted more than a decade of extensive research throughout Europe. These letters provide fascinating insights into Steinbeck’s thinking along the way, from his envying Malory for the time he could commit to his writing (Malory apparently spent much of his life in prison) to his admiring the progress Malory made as a writer. In one of his letters, Steinbeck suggests that Malory and he shared many of a novelist’s traits: “A novelist not only puts down a story but he is the story. He is each one of the characters in a greater or a less degree.” Malory, Steinbeck argues, saw himself in Lancelot.

The energy Steinbeck put into studying Malory’s writings and the varied histories and other sources that provided context for them suggests he identified with his characters as well. His writing is fueled by the energy that a knight would have needed as he sought the Grail. Death may have prevented Steinbeck from seeing his quest to its end, but he produced a work that drives readers’ imaginations on quests of their own.


SM comment: I was curious about this book that Steinbeck worked on for a long time. It sounds less dried up than I expected. A label on the gazebo from his Sag Harbor home says that he went to it to write day after day, writing nothing. It’s not like he had some other job or lack of income that kept him from writing. He had writer’s block, even if part of it can be attributed to the savagery of some New York critics in whose midst he chose to live (inexplicably to native or immigrant Californians!)

I hit similar statements about people wanting approval, not advice in Pippin IV and The Winter of Our Discontent, other late works of the master born a century ago today


Steinbeck’s epistolatory 1951 journal of writing East of Eden

To make it through the posthumously published (1969) Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters one must be very interested in how John Steinbeck spent 1951 and/or in what he regarded (from before he started writing it) as his magnum opus, East of Eden, which was published in September 1952 and became a blockbuster (601 pages) best-seller. A decade later, the Swedish Academy gave him the Nobel Prize in literature (a choice bemoaned by many American critics, a group that had long been hostile to Steinbeck’s writing).


While he was writing the book in New York City and on Long Island, Steinbeck wrote daily letters to his longtime editor, Pascal Covici, to “warm up.” That is, when he wrote about the book, it was mostly about what he planned to write on a particular day, not reflections on what he had written. (There are some postscripts about the day’s work that he hoped Covici would understand and like. I don’t understand how they could have been kept—on facing pages— in a notebook, since each week’s work was dispatched to Covici.

I also don’t understand how it is possible to use up 60 (#2 3/8 round) pencils a day, writing roughly 1500 words of novel and another 500 of epistles to his editor. He discarded a pencil as soon has he could fell the metal below/around the eraser, but that still seems like a lot of pencil to use up.

These puzzlements are part of the basis for my suspicions that the book is pervasively dishonest. He did edit the manuscript for publication, and purportedly did not think of publication, though I find it hard to believe that a professional writer who had published 22 books gave no thought to publishing anything of such length that he wrote. I also find it difficult to believe his frequent protestations that he was writing the book for himself and did not care if it were ever published. Is this credible from someone writing daily reports to his editor? Or trying to anticipate criticisms?

I also find it difficult to credit the perky cheerfulness. His third marriage seems to have been as happy as his second one was unhappy, and it is plausible that his wife Elaine told him she liked every single bit he read to her, knowing that he needed approval and encouragement not criticism however “constructive.” The journal periodically shows he was very, very sensitive to criticism—of which he got a great deal, being a best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

I have no interested in what the weather was like where he was between 12 February and 1 November 1951. There is, btw, nothing of his view of the ending or having reached the end of the bulky book on which he had worked most every workday, writing about six hours a day, for eight and a half months. It is followed in the published book by a draft dedication of the book that argued with sales personnel, proofreaders, editors, and critics. That was wisely replaced by a more conventional and less loquacious dedication to Covici (who had died in 1964, so did not make the decision to publish the unedited stream of letters to him).


There is little notice of the outside world, other than the weather and who was staying (notably his two young sons, warped by their mother, Gwyn). He went to the final National League playoff game with Bobby Thompson’s dramatic homerun and to the first World Series games, a crosstown series in which the Yankees beat the Giants. The parade for the cashiered General Douglas MacArthur stirred some fury (Steinbeck though MacArthur should not just be court-martialed for insubordination, but tried for treason; it was widely supposed at the time that MacArthur was going to run for president).

Along with many, many, many banalities, there are occasional nuggets of explication of Steinbeck’s intent. The story(/ies) seem to have been thought out before he began, though I doubt they flowed as smoothly as he pretended. For one thing, his plan to alternate the tale of the fratricidal Trasks with the economically unsuccessful Hamiltons (based on his mother’s family) dropped away. The Hamiltons were supposed (ca. 12 Feb.) to be the universal neighbors of the universal family (the Trasks). I’m not sure that Lee, the Chinese servant who mostly raised Aron and Cal was present in Steinbeck’s mind at the outset, though when he started writing about him, he claimed it had been. There is no doubt that Steinbeck was interested in Chinese in California, however.

There is also no question that Steinbeck saw Cathy/Kate as a monster from before her first appearance (27 March):

Cathy is a hustler, perhaps born, perhaps caused by accident, but Cathy is by nature a whore. She is also by profession a whore. Why Adam Trask should have fallen in lover with her is anybody’s guess but I think it was because he himself was trained to operate best under a harsh master and simply transferred that to a tough mistress.

If one can be born with a twisted and deformed face or body, one can surely also come into the world with a malformed soul.

Her life is one of revenge on other people because of a vague feeling of her own lack.

Steinbeck wanted the book to read like a history rather than like a novel (I’m not sure what he meant by that, and he did no elaborate). On 10 May he wrote that “the story comes to me as though I were reading it but not in final form. Then I must take the story I have heard in my ears and set it down.”

The plan to vary the A-C (Abel Cain) theme was also there before he started writing about Aron and Cal:

In the first part the burden was with Adam who was the Abel… The book was seen though his eyes and through his emotions. Charles was a dark principle who remained dark… Now in Part 3 I am going to try to do just the opposite. Caleb is my Cain principle. I am going to put the burden of experience through his eyes and his emotions… And since every man has Cain in him, he will be fully well understood. Part 3 is Caleb’s part.

The title shifted from Salinas Valley to My Valley to Cain Mark (a really bad title!) to the eventual (12 June) East of Eden to where Cain was banished after slaying Abel. Though he had had a string of memorable titles (The Pastures of Heaven, To A God Unknown), Of Mice and Men, In Dubious Battle, The Grapes of Wrath) he claimed not to be a “title man.” There is no mention of his having already used “valley” in The Long Valley, though he expressed concern that The Valley would be confused with How Green Was My Valley.

There is nothing about any editing of the manuscript which in the journal’s telling flowed smoothly in predetermined order through his #2 3/8 pencils. And it is generally difficult to be sure what in the published novel was being written (was going to be written!) on the day of a particular journal entry. Only if the journal was printed on the same alternating pages as the manuscript could a reader correlate the two texts. I don’t advocate doing this, since so much of the material in the journal is not about the novel (not to mention being of little interest!). I found Journal of a Novel close to insufferable (believing so little was accurate about his feelings), and skimmed many paragraphs about aches and pains and visitors and weather (I was interested in the maladjustments of his own young son (born in 1944 and 1946), but these were not detailed out of concern that they would read the journal when they grew up.)

©stephen O. Murray