My heart goes out to all those caught up in the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, which will drop a Noachian fifty inches of rain on parts of Texas, the state whose former governor (and later president of the U.S.) not only denied global warming, but actively falsified scientific data in support of curbing emissions and slowing its impact. To what end? Oh, I don’t know, but maybe, just maybe, preserving Big Oil’s profits had something to do with it? In the late 1990s I made a study of the subject and wrote A Friend of the Earth, projecting all the way out to the preposterous year of 2026 as the tipping point; how optimistic I was! While I am now deep into the next novel, Outside Looking In, which is set in the early 1960s and has nothing to do with global conditions but rather looks inward (at the pioneers of mind-expanding drugs), The Relive Box and Other Stories, coming to you in October, contains two stories meditating on global warming. The first, “Surtsey,” takes place on an island off the coast of Alaska that is being engulfed by rising seas; the second, “You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til the Well Runs Dry),” is set here in Santa Barbara during our record drought of the past five years. Do I like sunshine? No. Do I like rain? Yes. But all things in proportion.
The news? Various stories are coming out in various magazines and I have learned that Hanser Verlag’s Good Home, the double collection combining Wild Child and A Death in Kitchwank, will not be published in October, as I’d mistakenly thought, but in the spring (if spring ever comes). And that Hanser will publish The Relive Box collection at some future date, most likely after the next novel, which means that it will likely appear first in French from Grasset. That’s all very well, but closer to home, let me report that I spent much of the past week in the company of a 101-year-old woman who had once been a beautician and is still beautiful, both outwardly and inwardly, all things considered. Here’s the scenario: my sister came to visit from Arizona and on the second day here took a spill in the woods out back of the house, breaking her left hip. After a brief stay in the hospital—and the insertion of a pin to knit the bone together—she was sent to a nursing home for recovery and rehabilitation. Her roommate was the aforementioned hundred-and-one-year-old, who was undaunted by the circumstances in which she found herself (my sister, me, strangers, nurses) and was released before my sister, who is now, finally, at home, continuing her rehabilitation with a prognosis for full recovery. One hundred and one years old. Remarkable. (But not as remarkable as the twins whose daughter I know well: they both turned one hundred together last spring—and celebrated the occasion at their older sister’s house.) What am I saying here? I’m saying, Look out! I’m saying, It’s all bad in the long run, except for strength, courage, beauty and wisdom and the surcease of pain.
Which brings me to my favorite Calvino quote, which I used an epigraph for If the River Was Whiskey: “You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst.”
Blow, winds! Crack your cheeks!