Ron Carlson Writes a Story

A few weeks ago at JB‘s party, WA and I were talking about something – probably Particle Theory or the force intention has on cells – when HT showed us the new One Story. It was Ron Carlson’s Beanball. W nearly threw his drink in her face he was so excited and he, as graciously as one can grab, took it from H, deciding it should be immediately re-appointed as an object to fit in his bag. H seemed to understand W’s insta-klepto mentality. Me – I’m slow. I hadn’t read Ron Carlson. I heard his name, knew of his existence on the planes of this earth, but hadn’t read a single sentence written under his command. H then told me about this amazing lecture he gave at Breadloaf about writing a story, about how he specifically writes his. She urged me to find it. I emailed MM at Graywolf and she sent me a copy of Ron Carlson Writes a Story. I started it two days ago.

When I was 27 I went through a breakup that required all but giving back a ring. My therapist at the time kept on telling me to “live the questions.” It made sense to me, this idea of sitting with discomfort. I hated it and felt, well, uncomfortable, but thought she was kind of brilliant coming up with something as profound as “live the questions.” Turns out she didn’t come up with the sentence. When we finished working together (actually she fired me because she got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – true story for another time) she gave me “Letters to a Young Poet,” by Rainer Rilke, whom she had plagiarized that indelible line. I read and underlined nearly every sentence of that little book. Kept it in my bag with me at all times. It went through so much with me it’s swollen now from rain and collisions and impatience. I learned a lot from that book about how to be alone, about how to love solitude and I haven’t felt myself actively growing during the course of reading a book since then. Until now.

Ron Carlson Writes a Story is affecting me similarly to Letters to a Young Poet. Perhaps I needed this book now, as much as I needed Rilke then. If I read Letters to a Young Poet now, it probably wouldn’t make such an impact. This book is doing something to me, changing the way I view time and the way that I write – why I write. HT was right about this, as she is about many things. I urge you to buy it.


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