Thursday

Jan. 13, 2005

Too Much Snow

by Louis Jenkins

THURSDAY, 13 JANUARY, 2005
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Too Much Snow" by Louis Jenkins, from Just Above Water © Holy Cow Press! Reprinted with permission.

Too Much Snow

Unlike the Eskimos we only have one word for snow but we have a lot of modifiers for that word. There is too much snow, which, unlike rain, does not immediately run off. It falls and stays for months. Someone wished for this snow. Someone got a deal, five cents on the dollar, and spent the entire family fortune. It's the simple solution, it covers everything. We are never satisfied with the arrangement of the snow so we spend hours moving the snow from one place to another. Too much snow. I box it up and send it to family and friends. I send a big box to my cousin in California. I send a small box to my mother. She writes "Don't send so much. I'm all alone now. I'll never be able to use so much." To you I send a single snowflake, beautiful, complex and delicate; different from all the others.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of short story writer Lorrie Moore, born in Glens Falls, New York (1957). She's the author of the short story collections Like Life (1990) and Birds of America (1998). She skipped a grade in school when she was growing up, and the difference in age between her and her classmates made her feel especially small and shy. She said, "I felt so completely thin that I was afraid to walk over grates. I thought I would fall down the slightest crevice and disappear."

She started writing in college, and published her first story in Seventeen magazine. She was so happy she proceeded to send them everything she'd ever written. She said, "They couldn't get rid of me. I was like a stalker. I sent them everything, and of course they didn't want anything more from me."

It was only after she told her parents about her publication that she found out they had both wanted to be writers themselves. Her father went up into the attic and brought down stories that he'd once submitted to the New Yorker, and her mother admitted that she'd given up journalism for nursing.

In grad school, Moore realized she had to decide whether she wanted to devote her life to writing or to the piano, which had been her first love. She said, "The typewriter and the piano were actually similar ideas, for my mind and for my hands. I was completely unaccomplished musically [but] I was having ecstatic experiences in the practice room and wasn't getting any writing done. So I had to choose." She chose writing, and published her first book of short stories by the time she was twenty-six years old.

Lorrie Moore's first book was Self Help (1985), in which the stories were written in the style of how-to manuals, including "How to Be an Other Woman," "How to Talk to Your Mother," and "How to Be a Writer."

"How to Be a Writer" begins, "First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably. It is best if you fail at an early age—say, 14. Early, critical disillusionment is necessary so that at 15 you can write long haiku sequences about thwarted desire."

When she was asked in an interview why she writes so often about characters who make lots of jokes, she said, "I feel that when you look out into the world, the world is funny. And people are funny. And that people always try to make each other laugh. I've never been to a dinner party where nobody said anything funny. If you're going to ignore that [as a fiction writer], what are you doing?"


It's the birthday of the novelist Edmund White, born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1940). He realized he was gay when he was twelve years old, but he kept trying to blame it on things like his shyness or the fact that his mother was over-protective. He came out of the closet to his father, and his father didn't believe him until he hired a private investigator to follow him around. White spent years going to psychoanalysts, trying to cure himself. He said. "I wanted to be normal, to have a wife and kids, not have a lonely old age." He finally came to terms with his sexuality when a new psychotherapist turned out to be gay as well.

He got a job working for Time Life Books, and he wrote fiction on the side. He wrote five novels about contemporary homosexual life, but he couldn't get any of them published. So finally he wrote Forgetting Elena (1973), about a man who wakes up after a party and can't remember who he is. It was the first novel White had written that didn't mention homosexuality, and it got great reviews. The writer Vladimir Nabokov called it the best new novel he'd read in years.

But even though White had had his first success with a novel that didn't address his own sexuality, he decided that if he was going to be a writer, he wanted to write about his own experiences, and so he set out to become the foremost gay novelist in America. His third novel, A Boy's Own Story (1982) was the first gay coming of age novel in America, and it became a best-seller in the United States and England. He has gone on to write a series of novels, chronicling the history of gay society in his lifetime, including The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988), The Farewell Symphony (1997), and The Married Man (2000.)


Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »