On Palaces

I spent last night writing a bad poem and the morning hours reading the Ice Palace from front to cover in bed under my electric blanket. 

It was surprisingly heartbreaking—who would have thought I’d be so struck by a doomed love story between two eleven-year-old Scandinavian girls?

I tried reading some Eudora Welty but felt like the mom from Little Women was lecturing me. I’m still thinking of the ice palace, at how it killed one girl and almost claimed another. But to give yourself to such a feat of beauty… 

My friend sent me this quote by Dickens. It left me paralyzed with existential dread. I can imagine her in her apartment in Thailand saying to herself, this is nice and morose, gotta send it over to Nancy. 

When I came to grad school I stopped writing things that I held close to my heart. I wonder how many years of unlearning it will take for me to be brave enough to write real stories again. 

I’m still stuck on that quotation by Alice Monroe, about how sometimes the crux of the story lies in the kitchen chairs lined up in the backyard. What an idea. To envelope your intentions neatly in a space nobody’s looking at. Genius!

The other day F. asked me what I would like to do. The question unsettled me: it doesn’t sound like a question that I have the power to answer. Wants are different than have-to-dos, and I have rarely spent time thinking about the things that I want. I have to eat, work, to continue in the path of least resistance. It frightens me how big of a dark void that becomes; I shudder at having to tightrope that line of expectancy for the rest of my life. Like, not an exaggeration, I literally shudder. I wonder what’s so big and frightening that I can’t bear to look at? 

I started reading Palace of Illusions, and for such a pulpy book, to look up suddenly and realize I’m seventy pages in, I’m either deeply avoiding grading student papers that will disappoint or actually like the stories. I’ll be honest. I hate short stories. Why am I writing them? 

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