For all of the passion and energy in Saroyan, however, there was something sexless about him—the son of a Presbyterian minister.Maybe that sexual diffidence deepened my sense of companionship with him.And yes, I write of “postlapsarian” California, where I live. In writing about dying newspapers, I end up noticing the decline of the American cemetery, as more and more Americans are being cremated and their ashes are cast to the wind. But I will tell you this: An editor in New York told me the other day that, even as the reading audience for serious prose has diminished, the unsolicited manuscripts she receives are better than ever.
I long regarded the desert ecology with a curiosity I gave to no other landscape. I love the semantic paradox proposed by the noun we give to the desert—a place we define by what is no longer there.
In a dentist’s waiting room, as a boy, I stopped attending to the shrieking drill behind the pebbled glass window when I beheld photographs of the North African desert in . Once there were seas, once great tribes crossed these plains, great flocks of animals, once angels were as common as herons.
(The wallet was recovered by one of the famous bellmen at Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Anthony dressed as a beefeater,” as Rodriguez put it.) Instead, we corresponded for several weeks..
Of course, I haven’t, until lately, considered myself a “writer”—in the grand sense.
For most of my writing life, I have stood truly, if uneasily, on American bookstore shelves as a sociological sample—shelved “Latino” between a gangbanger’s book of poetry and the biography of a Colombian drug lord.
Only in recent years, as it has become clear to me that so few people I know read books, have I been struck by the fact that I am a writer. From boyhood, particularly my lower-middle-class childhood in Sacramento, I was transported by religion into the realm of mystery.
When a Mexican male nurse who looked strangely like me—of the same age and toothy smile—pushed my gurney into the surgery, he softly told me, his face upside down over my head, that he had survived the same operation, and that I must not worry. I smiled almost to laughter when I shook the lead surgeon’s hand. I appreciated your take on it as a somehow fertile place.
I had come to associate it with boredom and acedia, the noonday demon, about which the desert monastics used to complain.
I consider acedia to be the thorniest flower of the desert.
Acedia is, on the one hand, the midday loneliness the monks find burdensome.