Twenty years ago, in the parking lot of a Cirque du Soleil show at Santa Monica Beach, I saw in the dust an antique diamond engagement ring. Of course I picked it up, all tiny diamond and huge ring size, but the mystery took hold of me: who was its owner, what was her story, and did she mean to throw away her marital promise ring?
“Look at this!” I said to my new husband James. We’d only recently found each other, were instantly simpatico, and had married at nearly first sight.
“Are you sure you want to mess with that?” he asked. “That’s somebody’s magic, you know, sitting in the dirt.” He was always talking about somebody’s magic, and messing with it.
“I do!” I gleaned, and pocketed the sweet thing.
Some readers think fiction writers garnish the truth with a sprig of parsley and pass it off as a story entrée. I’ve heard it all. Fiction is roman à clef. A first novel is always autobiographical. The protagonist’s problem is a stand-in for the author’s neurosis. Of course, novelists routinely protest too much. Fiction writers make things up, and it can be difficult work, we claim, because these things must be summoned from somewhere beyond memory and history and then shaped into narrative. However, somewhere between the accusation and the defense, there’s the story, and sometimes a writer’s biography may need to be considered. When it comes to reading Junichiro Tanizaki’s 1928 novel “In Black and White,” translated beautifully by Phyllis I. Lyons, an emeritus professor of Japanese language and literature at Northwestern, it may help the reader to know that there was an actual death associated with Tanizaki’s literary murder story.
Certain issues have become so noisy and stigmatized that they seem to be all-consuming and invisible at once. Abortion is one of them, and Katie Watson wants to change how Americans talk about it — when, that is, they deign to truly talk about it at all.