The beginning of summer makes me nostalgic and reflective. Maybe it’s because my birthday falls near the beginning of the season, or maybe it’s because I am a teacher, meaning I’ve always–aside from a few quick years spent in the real world while I finished graduate school–associated summer with endings. The end of the school year meant long days spent reading or swimming, then years later working and driving around with friends looking for something, anything, to stave off the boredom of being a frustratingly wholesome teenager, a designation achieved not by choice but by design, the result of a loving family, good schools in the suburbs, well-rounded friends, and my own deferential disposition.
Now summers mostly mean writing. With most of my daytime hours free, I can produce upwards of 1,000 words a day if I’m really feelin’ it. At the very least I can produce 300, an amount that would lead to a novel by the end of the year if a novel was my aim. Which it is. And while this might sound idyllic, it can be amazingly frustrating, especially when time sucks the daring and the imagination right out of you, making you wonder if what you’re undertaking is really worthwhile because this process, this putting down of word after word, leads to new thoughts–“Writing is generative,” I say to my students–and before you know it, you want to include every passing idea into a piece that now resembles a quilt stitched together by Benjy Compson, or maybe a drunk Macbeth, whose sewing prowess was noted but never much appreciated. (Shakespeare, unforgivably, left out two kilt-stitching scenes, masterpieces of comic poesy, that, quite crucially, indicated that the murder of the king and everything that followed was actually a farcical play within a play put on by Merry McBeth and the Queen’s Women. The loss of this portion of the play is, suffice to say, a tragedy.).
The point is this: I sat down to write a Halfway-Through the Year-End list, remembering how much fun it was to write the 2014 Year-End list, but somewhere after the lead I stumbled off the path. I carried the weight of revision and summertime nostalgia on my back, but I finally made it. The list, however, did not. I expect it will arrive by post sometime later this week, which means you can expect to read it here soon thereafter.