Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thomas McGuane | The Bushwhacked Piano | 1971

Dear Payne,

I turned sixty-five last month. My children came to see me. My ex-wife called and told me that I am the same person, in good and bad ways, as when I was thirty. My current wife bought me a Cartier Caliber 1904MC. I pretended to be happy about all of it but I am not very happy about any of it. I noticed that some of the other letters here are preoccupied with age, in one way or another, and it makes sense. I had a professor once who said that "Age is the book that we are all writing." It sounded so wise at the time. Now I think he was an idiot, which doesn't mean that he was wrong.

Anyway, I am digressing. I first read your book in my late twenties, and I have returned to it every few years, when the rest of my life starts to get too gray. I won't tell you exactly where I live or where I work, because I want to protect people, but through all of it -- the two marriages, the four affairs, the children, the job, building the house, helping to rehab my first brother-in-law's 1956 Chevy Nomad, the year in there I took too many painkillers, the year I got fat -- I can't get used to the idea that this is all there is, which is why I keep coming back to your book. You don't seem to understand much either, but you make me laugh deeply. This time I stopped at the part where you are taking a new job and imagining that it will make Ann love you. I will quote back to you because it is so satisfying: "Implacably, he" -- that's you -- "would bring himself to Ann's attention in a way that reached beyond mere argument and calling of the police."

My middle son is a writer, and when I sent him this sentence, he said "the 'of' makes all the difference in the world." That made me proud of him, and made things a little less gray, for a few minutes. They'll go gray again, though.