Jersey state of mind

By JON GARELICK  |  November 10, 2006

IN CHARACTER: “It isn’t always the case that writing novels will make the writer discover something that he hadn’t ever known before.”
We tend to think of novelists as somewhat sedentary. You live in New Orleans and Maine, but here’s all this stuff from New Jersey, and as the newspaper guys say, it’s a story you had to go out and get.
It’s true. You certainly don’t have to write those stories down there, but for me — and maybe somebody else would do it differently — I had to continually replenish my memory with experience down there, and I did it for the most mercenary of reasons, because I wanted to find more of what I thought were comic details, the names of places, Bump’s Eat It Raw and things like that, I’m so completely tickled by all that stuff, I think it’s hilarious. But I have to go find it.

I know that I drive myself crazy trying to get the specific names of places and things, and I probably drive writers I edit crazy with it too: “Exactly what KIND of sunglasses were they?”
And the reason they don’t do it, aside from inattention, is that I think they don’t understand that those words on a page not only mean something or make something plausible, but they also give pleasure. When you see the word Ray-Ban, that’s hyphenated, somehow my little heart quivers a little bit when I see that. Not only because the real world is verified, but because the word itself is so funny. Writers don’t know that language itself, in and of itself, is pleasure-giving.

Do you read reviews?
No. Particularly when I’m out here on the road I find that the upsie-downsie parts of that are pretty twisting. I think the good ones are never pleasing enough and the bad ones hurt me more than they should. I guess they would say in common parlance: I don’t have good boundaries.

RICHARD FORD | Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St, Brookline | November 16 | $2 | 617.566.6660

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