Before we get into the news, per se, I’d like to give you a little paean to the Southern Sierras, where I’ve been, off and on, since Christmas. For one who rents his winter weather, as I do, the season couldn’t have been more bracing, snowy and inspiriting all around. On Monday afternoon, for instance, I took a hike of some three miles or so, the new pup at my side, under overcast skies, temperatures in the low twenties and a stiff wind a-blowing (after work, of course, said work involving the first two chapters of the next novel, my twenty-fifth book of fiction now a-brewing). We had a good snow starting on Christmas night and lasting a full twenty-four hours, then several smaller storms in the course of the intervening month. Last week we had rain, two days of it, the temperature never falling below freezing, even at night. The rain compacted the snow, after which a hard freeze set in, making its surface walkable, allowing me the freedom to step off the causeways made by ski mobiles. Now, I don’t have much good to say about these machines, which bring noise, air pollution and discarded beer cans (and worse) to the wild places, but they do make it possible for hikers to get out in deep snow. I’ve tried cross-country skis and snowshoes over the years, but if possible—if conditions are right—I prefer going on foot. And so I did, not only on Monday, but on several other occasions as well.
Ah, the towering woods, silent but for the cawing of the ravens and the creaking of their wings. The hidden landscape. The fortress of the pines. The crunch of snow under your boots. And then home to the woodstove, a book, a glass of wine and the spaghetti sauce I made two weeks ago but which remains semi-delectable thanks to the offices of the freezer in the cabin. Was I bored? Sure, after a while. But what an idyll while it lasted! Of course, there are prosaic concerns here, like, for instance, our having to leave a day or two earlier than we’d planned during the second week of this month, when the power company decided to shut off the electricity from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. for work on the lines during a prolonged cold snap (below zero at night and in the teens during the day—and why couldn’t they wait till July?), which was compounded by my discovery that we were out of propane for heat and hot water.
A trifle. We could have endured—we did have the woodstove, after all, and who needs to wash when you can just rub your face in the snow?—but I felt it might just be nice to return to Santa Barbara by the Sea for a couple of days. It was coldish here too, but we had electricity, natural gas and a whole city full of city amenities, including, but not restricted to restaurants (forget the ancient spaghetti sauce), bars, shops (Frau Boyle’s delectation), plays and movies.
So. That was what occupied me during late December and this shining month of the new year now drawing to a close. In the meanwhile, all sorts of newsworthy things have been brewing. First, I should alert you all to the fact that I will appear at the Savannah Book Festival on February 16 at 1:30 P.M. in the Telfair Rotunda, and that in March I will perform at Harper College on the nineteenth and at UT Austin on the twenty-first. Beyond that, I have returned the copy-edited ms. of T.C. Boyle Stories II to my publisher in advance—and burning expectation—of the book’s publication in October. New stories from this collection are forthcoming in Harper’s (“Sic Transit”); Playboy (“The Marlbane Manchester Musser Award”); and McSweeney’s (“Burning Bright”). Too early yet to know of the tour schedule, but as it takes shape—probably over the summer—I’ll post it here for you. And, finally, I have just heard from Hanser Verlag that I will be in Germany in September for the simultaneous hardcover publication of my latest novel, San Miguel, and my first, Water Music, in a new translation by Dirk van Gunsteren. There will also be a celebration in Vienna for San Miguel, which has been chosen as that august city’s book of the year. More on that as details come in.
And now, having come home to sunny Santa Barbara, I must move forward with a whole range of activities, like digging deeper into the new novel, seeing to the various downed and rotting trees and to the education of the pup, the three-month-old Puli who has made me, once again and after all these years, an intimate of excrement. Good dog. Very good dog. And let’s learn to make our deposits out of doors, shall we?