Balzac drank close to fifty cups of coffee every day. Before he wrote a single word, Steinbeck set twelve, freshly sharpened Blackwings on his desk. Poe made scrolls of narrow sheets and sealing wax: a tiny scroll for every final draft. Hemingway stood; Capote reclined; Dickens paced.
While some deplore it, snow cover attracts many people, writers especially, when it first covers the ground and changes the usual view of things. In the countryside, snow cover might remain untouched and therefore quite appealing for some time. But in the cities, the snowscape gets mucked up quickly by our incessant industry — plowing, shoveling, de-icing, sanding away the inconvenience of it. Still, the snowy scene draws writers not only for its newness, but also for the awe and fear it can stir in the observer.
The first time I read Franny and Zooey, I was captivated by Franny Glass’s (admittedly unhinged) plan to repeat “The Jesus Prayer” until it became as natural as a heartbeat. I was less impressed by her brother Zooey’s admonishment, later in the story, that Franny should stop using the prayer “as a substitute for doing whatever the hell your duty is in life, or just your daily duty.”
Every newspaper I pick up is awful. The whole world, it seems, is in an uproar. Fear of war stalks families and countries around the globe; Ebola is throwing whole governments into panic; ISIS continues its brutal campaign across the Middle East; politicians stateside and abroad fling insults and petty accusations at each other. Rarely do I ever let myself look away from what’s going on in the world at any given moment, but the temptation to do so can be overwhelming.