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Friday, January 20, 2006

New York Diary

Illustration: Fra Angelico's
The Apostle Saint James the Great Freeing the Magician Hermogenes,
ca. 1429–30
Fra Angelico (Italian, 1390/5–1455). Tempera and gold on panel; 10 x 8 7/8 in. Collection of Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

The Bus

Usually I drive or take the train, but this time I tried the bus. Chilly going south; warm going north. The bus is counter-intuitive. On the way down, all the riders seemed to know one another’s troubles and minor events, interacting with the driver, flamboyantly sharing the New York Times. On the way back, there were heaps of college students, particularly Japanese students going to Delhi.

Cell Phones (that nuisance, sometimes curious) on the return journey

A SUNY-Oneonta student was talking about his flight. The plane kept dropping by 700-foot increments until the oxygen masks deployed and everybody panicked. Behind me was a New Yorker heading upstate—a friend? girlfriend? relative?—had arrived home and found three armed men in the house. One held a gun to her head; one shot her father.

January 17

Sharyn November

Sharyn, the editor for my upcoming Firebird (Penguin) paperbacks, was exactly as I had imagined her, except slightly less Valkyriesque—that is, she proved a mere 5’9”. (Those of us on the hobbity side of height, of course, think it would be perfectly marvelous to be anywhere above 5’3”.) Scads of red hair, voluble, lots of gusto, interesting in appearance and manner: in fact, I think that she should have been a Robertson Davies character. She asked me for a story for the next Firebirds anthology. And she mailed off a batch of Firebirds for me, so I’ll know more about her sensibility soon.

January 18

Horrible wind and rain, so I didn’t go to the Fra Angelico show at the Met as planned. Instead I stayed in until the wind died down a bit—at the Incentra Village House on Eighth between 12th & Jane—and then walked to Union Square in the rain. On the way I bought R an elegant black velvet dress for the middle school Cotillion…

Margaret Ferguson & Sabeth Albert

We had lunch at the Blue Water Grill, and I was glad to find that FSG seems to be expecting another children’s book from me. It was a pleasant, peaceful spot in the day. I’d never met Margaret before and liked her very much.

Liz Darhansoff

An altogether satisfactory meeting with my agent, despite the fact that the scene for what is called “literary” fiction seems worse than ever… Evidently I left my umbrella as a memento, but it seems as though there’s plenty of use for it in the city.

Datlow & Schanoes & Vandermeer & the KGB Bar

Ellen Datlow is another interesting figure, easy to meet and very knowledgeable. She steered me around all evening. KGB was jammed to such an extent that I didn’t know Elaine and Stephanie had come from FSG until after the whole thing was over. I met heaps of editors and writers and sundry attached parties and got invitations to submit material and also to be on a radio show that starts at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m. Live. In NYC. Maybe someday…

I read my brand new story, “The Smaragdine Knot,” and Jeff Vandermeer read from Shriek and from his “Secret Lives”—all funny and well done. Veronica Schanoes introduced me and mentioned the fact that I used to wear lizard earrings. However, she didn’t say that I was a mere child at the time. She has a piece on line at Endicott Studio, “How to Bring Somebody Back from the Dead.” Jim Freund recorded the reading for WBAI 99.5, and I suppose one may be able to find it via

I have no idea where we went for dinner, but there were hordes of people who came along, and the food was mostly Szechuan. Jeff gave me the nutshell version of his theory of marketing. Ann told me that he’ll often do four or five hours of “business” per day. He is notable for and somewhat unique in being such a good promoter of his books, I think; most writers don’t seem to be able to write and promote well. On the bus ride home, Rick Bowes told me that there used to be a Fenimore Cooper plaque on the St. Mark’s Bathhouse! Now there's a queer thought…

January 19

Elisabeth Dyssegaard

I had breakfast at French Roast with my elegant former editor at FSG, and we talked about the possiblility of a nonfiction book for her new house, Smithsonian Books. I do have some Templeton-related ideas. What a strange little village it is, with a good deal of history, more than most dots on a North American map.

Fra Angelico

The show: so marvelous that I almost missed my bus.

"This first major exhibition of Fra Angelico’s work since the quincentenary exhibition of 1955 in Florence—and the first ever in this country—reunites approximately 75 paintings, drawings, and manuscript illuminations covering all periods of the artist’s career, from ca. 1410 to 1455. Included are several new attributions and paintings never before exhibited publicly, as well as numerous reconstructions of dispersed complexes, some reunited for the first time. An additional 45 works by Angelico's assistants and closest followers illustrate the spread and continuity of his influence into the second half of the 15th century." --thus saith the Met

Flew back to the Incentra in a magic taxi and marched double-time to the subway. Blue line closed. Managed to take another to Times Square and walk the infinite underground corridor to the Port Authority. Miles of tile. It’s rather like walking through the world’s largest bathroom but never getting to the point.


  1. Vicarious thrills. Without the cold and long walks on tile floors. Delicious. It doesn't seem the Hour of the Wolf has your segment online quite yet (or I am cyber inept), but I will check once more in a few days.
    Thanks for the perfect Issa poem.

  2. Well, maybe it isn't stored the way the interviews are... I have no clue. I know it's broadcast there, though. If you find it, tell me! I, too, can be "cyber inept."

    Oh, I think Wilbur has a good sparrow poem, too.

    Sharyn just asked me how she was a Davies character, so perhaps I should say that she is a bit larger-than-life in manner and has the dramatic-looking kind of beauty(often true of a Davies character, as he started in theatre); she's intense in her mental life(definitely Davies, who adores Jung); and she's associated with mythic and magical things.

  3. I meant to comment on your use of Davies in describing Sharyn--I believe I understood absolutely, but more, I was delighted that you too are a Davies reader and appreciator.
    There are many good bird poems, though probably the sparrow group is somewhat limited. Will have to search out the Wilbur. (I've been thinking of the connection between another brown bird and a golden one--Keat's nightengale and Yeat's Byzantine gilded singing bird).

  4. (and forgive what seems to be my currently fractured spelling!)

  5. I haven't read much of Davies lately (aside from a book of essays that I found in our tiny library), but I have a great fondness for his books (and his big Whitmania beard.) I remember reading the Deptford trilogy with great excitement as a young sprat--think I discovered John Cowper Powys not long afterward.

    More bird-thoughts: there's a wild John Skelton poem in his rollicking "skeletonics," all about the slaying of Philip Sparrow by Gib the cat, with a requiem mass. Look in a big fat sixteenth-century anthology, and it ought to be there.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.