AUGUST 15, 1997
  Next Week  
Between Books
(On the Beach in Literary America)

Intrepid writer Amy Halloran is traveling from Seattle to Maine. Until September, Halloran's weekly journal covers lit. culture (and roadside attractions) across the U.S.A.

 | journal two |  
8.7.97 The beach is reached by a walk through the woods. A hippie couple walks straight into the water, fully clothed. When far enough out to disrobe under cover of water, they do, tossing their clothes toward the shore. Then they swim out to where he can stand
head above water, and she mounts him, grabbing his neck with both arms. By now we're swimming too. The water is shallow and full of growing tangles that I don't mind.  
I prowl
the restaurant
for readers

The beach is small, and fairly crowded, with a mix of people I can't clearly identify. This is Minneapolis, and the mothers on this beach don't look like their pregnancies were planned. A couple of gay men smoke Marlboro lights. Then there's the men on bikes I can't place.

One man hands another a sandwich, which is devoured by a mouth that hasn't seen food in days. A bikinied girl is studying a textbook. One of the mothers is reading a fashion magazine and chain smoking. Her son is using a rope swing, smiling as he flings himself over the water and letting go only when he sees he's about to hit the rocks on the other side of the pendulum. I am not reading anything.

The couple has exhausted their need to be watched. Now the man stands up, maybe aware of the fool he's made of himself. When dressed, the pair is embarassed. They marvel at their wet clothes, the way they cling to their bodies. They need to study each other instead of the people who've seen them fuck.

I think you need to look people in the eyes after you've tried to shock them.

8.8.97 Despite all attempts to avoid Chicago at rush hour on a Friday we land smack dab in the thick of it outside O'Hare. We pull out of the stopped traffic and pause at a McDonald's. It's the
he admits to
reading about
the
Beatles -- and
Helter Skelter
  perfect place for me to query people. I prowl the restaurant for readers.

"Whatcha reading?" I dare two kids who listen to Phish. The tough looking one, a brunette, answers with Playboy.


"The articles any good?"

"Not reading them."

"I'm reading Bully, or Does Everyone Have to Die," pipes up his blonde friend, prompting the brunette to admit he's read a variety of literature about the Beatles and, furthermore, Helter Skelter.

8.9.97 In Cleveland our hostess is studying for the GRE's. Our host is reading medical texts. He's a third year resident. I bought a copy of the The Hungry Mind Review, at a bookstore in St. Paul, which had a lot of literary magazines, more than I've ever seen in one place. This issue is good enough to make me want a subscription. The Hungry Mind isn't snooty or controlling like the New York Times Book Review. There are loads of articles by and about Midwest writers -- the latest land of my fascination.

There is an elegy for Michael Dorris,. The Minneapolis paper also covers Dorris' controversial death, and solicits an opinion from his wife, Louise Erdrich. She urges an end to the scandalous discussion of his life and death.

When I was working at the New York State Writers' Insitute,
at the height of Dorris & Erdrich's heyday, the fairy tale writing couple came to read. Everyone trumpeted their many talents: writers, teachers, self-less parents! I couldn't believe it was so. My 20 year old mind was hell bent on independence and seeking reinforcement of the idea that I would have to abandon relationships and family in the  
the danger:
a good writer can
stack the evidence
in his favor
name of my writing. Now, my petty little soul is lapping up the details of his misfortune. The danger of writing is that a good writer can stack the evidence in his favor. Unless you write about dolls you're going to get flack about your portrayal.

I am 30 years old now, and I look for writers who have full lives on the page and off. My eggs want using. From one of the versions of Dorris' life, I will take the lesson that the children I am planning to have won't suffer in the name of my writing.

8.11.97 Now I am officially between books. I try The Stone Diaries by Carole Shields and am resentful of the way she manipulates the reader, beginning with a desccription of the narrator's birth, which she reminds us she is impossibly narrarating as the adult result of her mother's last hour on earth.

I don't like being toyed with in terms of time and tense. So I ask my boyfriend's aunt what she is reading. A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton. "I'm not quite sure where's she's going with this, but I'm sticking with it," she tells me. I give her my Carole Shields book to try.

8.13.97 Route 36 between Chataqua and Rochester Ny. Stopped for a sandwich at the Sugarcreek convenience store during snack hour for the working man and a slew of guards. My mother counts 7 men with NYS Correctional Institution uniforms. She asks the seventh where he is going. "Groveland and Morris Prisons," says a tall blonde man carrying a coke, spicey peanuts and the newspaper to read on shift. "Time to do my time."

We laugh and drive on to my uncle's house, where everyone has borrowed from my thirteen year old cousin's Maeve Beachy collection for their summer reading. My mother is reading a mystery whose name she can't remember. I am still between books.

--   Wandering Reader
Amy Halloran


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