Thursday, September 22, 2011
"A short story," Frank said, "unlike a novel, should be something you can completely walk around. It's a morsel you can hold in your hand and turn over. And, ideally, it's utterly digestible." How could I not consider the dinner table as an option. One of my favorite movies, My Dinner With Andre, holds out an entire world for your consideration in the rich conversation of two very different friends.
Dinner was born of that insight. My first short story. Lunch and Breakfast developed from the conceit, which I continue to appreciate as a device to bring folks together and force them to talk to one another.
Cocktails, on the other hand, was lifted whole, as a full chapter, out of a novel I'm working on right now. And, at least for me, it seems to have that rare quality of being able to stand on its own, without the rest of the book. I hope you agree. Given the fact that the content of the stories in this anthology seem to be focused around "Meals", we thought the cocktail party theme might allow us to sneak it in as a bonus for you.
The basic theme holding all of the stories together is neither food nor company; but rather, the idea of "positioning" as a deliberate and creative expression of life. In my first book, The New American Wedding, the expression of personal style as an authentic and powerful gesture in ritual, became immediately apparent to me. And certainly the lesson Joy Harkness runs into in The Season of Second Chances, is that style is a mark of emotional importance. Not something to be scorned as domestic and insubstantial, but rather, the "texture of life".
All of these stories serve up some level of personal, positioning for scrutiny, but I present them, I hope, with some, admittedly skeptical - if not wholehearted, reverence. If my brand of reverence is more ironic than what you might imagine to be encouraging, forgive me. It's my mark.
I've done a lot of thinking about this. Sondheim was wrong. It's not "Children and Art". It's only Art. Your children are going to do what they're going to do and your credit can and will only go so far. But along with your discovery of zutonium and the symphony you wrote in your junior year, your personal, authentic style, is all you really have to leave on this earth. The way you did it. The way you seasoned the soup. Or folded the napkin. The still life you've assembled on the dresser that mixes uour grandmother's pitcher with the little plastic gorilla who spits fire when he walks. The music that plays through dinner. The color of your socks. This is your art. If you're vigilant and let them speak, all of these things have a chance to say something about you. Not about fashion or this year's colors - but about you.
And my stories, I hope, encourage that kind of courage.
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