Where writers are concerned, the nature of knowing involves a degree of mystery. Non-writers have inner lives and secret thoughts, of course, but they don’t express themselves on the page, revealing a very different depth and dimension than they express in normal conversation or even in moments of confessional revelation. Good writers reveal intricacies and insights in ways unavailable to them when they are being their social selves.

One friend, after reading a long essay that analyzed one of his best-known stories, told me, “I didn’t know I was so smart.” That is, the critic unearthed strategies and intricacies the writer had no idea existed. Did I do that? He did, but it wasn’t a result of his conscious mind, instead the outcome of a process he couldn’t really articulate. Perhaps my red-haired schoolmate had been drawn to profundities our teacher encoded within the words of the Wedge stories.

I learned very early on that the writer I know as a person, no matter how well, is not the writer whose words I read. Even when the material is autobiographical, even based on incidents I’ve heard about in great detail, the written version is another reality and the voice or character experiencing the situations a much more complex being than the person who told me about them. So, what does it actually mean to know a writer?



The Lost Ones is available on amazon.com.