Read this piece about the Long Island house where John Coltrane (who would’ve been 89 yesterday) composed A Love Supreme and lived with his family ’til his death in 1967. The house is being turned into a museum, hopefully set to open in 2017.
…Steve Fulgoni, a local business owner in Dix Hills who is also a voracious jazz fan, broke his way into the house to take a look around. Knowledge of the Coltranes having lived in the area had spread among devotees, but the address wasn’t known, in part because of a misleading mention in a biography. When Fulgoni tracked down an old delivery boy who remembered the jazz legends as neighbors, he found the house as it had been described, simple and unassuming behind a rusting iron gate. To his shock, it was abandoned—an incongruous suburban ruin.
He started petitioning the town of Dix Hills to save the historic home at once…
Paul Bowles, The Art of Fiction No. 67
I’ve read this before several times, I think. I don’t know what drew me to it today, but it might be a longing for something foreign. Life in Tangier as an American ex-pat qualifies. In it, I’m drawn today to Bowles’ admission that he has no ego, no ambition. And that if he did, he would have returned to New York. He also states that he never thought of himself as having a career after he quit his career as a composer. He never thought of having an unconventional marriage, and it was never discussed with his wife, Jane. He never thinks or plans, but allows things to happen to him. He writes from a place, he says, that is not himself. He doesn’t own what he writes. And everything he writes is completely fabricated, he says. He doesn’t model characters after people he knows. He doesn’t write if he doesn’t feel like it.
This sort of goes along with the last post about being mistaken for your protagonist. That would be fictionalizing yourself. But what about fictionalizing other people, or having other people mistake themselves for fictional characters based on small details you’ve procured from them to use in a story? This has happened to me with my first book. Michelle Huneven covers all the bases on this topic in The Paris Review blog.
I just read it today, and I feel uplifted. Sometimes when you read these interviews, you get this feeling of stilted language or ideas, whether from the writer or the interviewer. In this case, there’s none of that (fellow poet Charles Simic is the interviewer). Probably because Tate has such a great sense of humor. I went to school in Amherst, where he lives and teaches, and I regret now never having taken a class with him.