Friday, May 21, 2021

When We Lose a Sense of Place

 From Lit Hub:

I have written in bars, in parks, in theaters between acts of plays, on night buses and in subway cars, in rooms that have been mine and in the bed where I sleep now, in hotels, in other people’s houses, on planes, in barns, at desks, near cliffs, on the banks of canals. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

A writer can be obsessed by the question of where to write. On the one hand, she needs an intimate understanding of a place in order to make it real on the page. But she also needs to dissociate from her actual surroundings so that a story’s setting can appear in her mind in full detail. Joyce wrote his Dublin in Zurich, Trieste, and Paris. Proust wrote his Paris in Paris, albeit in a cork-lined room. It is often recommended to maintain a boring garden shed, or to put your desk against a wall.

I was born in New York City and moved to London in the fall of 2012. Before long I was convinced that I was home. My phone autocorrected flavor to flavour and organize to organise and center to centre. I had close friends and had seen all of Peep Show. I liked gallows humor and clouds. But I did not like to be teased. I could be awkwardly effusive. I did not pick up on fleeting ironies. On one occasion I brought too many cookies to a friend’s birthday party and the likely cost of the cookies was briefly a subject of lighthearted conversation. I did not understand the nuances of class in Britain. “Neither do we,” a friend said, but he at least knew what to bring to parties. (Read more.)


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