Of the Hint Fiction contributors that I have worked with over the past several weeks, he was the only writer who submitted his WWFIL twice. in linear and non-linear versions. They’re completely different. It’s the non-linear version that is published below.
He’s also the 68th best travel writer with friends in positions 67 and 69. “Operating on Stoke” pretty much describes what he does with language.
Check out DM’s site at: www.miller-david.com In his case, it’s “Greetings from Patagonia”.
This Other Landscape
by David Miller
1. Mom has told me I ‘read’ at four.
(She didn’t say this with air / scare quotes, but they seem necessary in the context of vaguely uncomfortable (albeit imagined) associations with (a) her probably having said this to other people out of a Jewish mother’s stereotypically proud / anxious madness,a and (b) likely daytime reading sessions where objects / words are indicated and the phrases “and this is called?” and “sound it out” are said sweetly, yet recursively, exhaustively. )
a Which of course to a son never feels ‘stereotypical’ but kind of its own unique permutation of ‘the madness.’
2. I had a mild phonological disorder.
(I said muh-ver for mother. I was sent to a speech pathologist, this young woman who drew squiggly snakes in my notebook, each snake a kind of slalom course of different sounds.)
3. My earliest solo-reading memory is a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure.’
(I read it while riding in the bottom of a shopping cart. The lighting seemed dim both in the story (there were illustrations of torches on stone walls), and in the store, the fluorescent bulbs in the ceiling seen through layers of steel mesh and whatever cans and bottles my mom dropped in the basket.)
4. This morning Layla picked up the Big Blue Book of Beginner Books, showing me something.
(She’d crayoned over a story about a dog that can take off his spots. Unas flores! she said.)
5. Around the time she was born I was reading The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford.
(Booksb can help either remove or augment the sense of being present in a place.c )
b As with drugs, food, music, and most activities.
c Or in some cases it can do both, as when I arrived in Buenos Aires for the birth I was kind of displaced and freaked and reading was palliative (time spent essentially ‘nowhere’), and then I’d rebound, going for runs upcalle Defensa and kind of savor everything–the buses and mercados and graffiti – and feel like this was all planned somehow.
6. I like books by men who haven’t always had soft hands.
(Examples: Ed Abbey, Rick Bass, Wendell Berry, Raymond Carver, Dostoyevsky, Jim Harrison, Charles Bukowski, Barry Lopez, Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Henry David Thoreau. What matters is that the author has done some kind of raw physical labor, either in a negative context (Carver or Bukowski’s menial jobs, Dostoyevsky’s forced labor) or ‘constructive’ (Berry, Thoureau).)
7. It never occurred to me to be a writer nor to not be a writer.
(Writing, like reading was just something you did, the words like a kind of confluence, the aggregate of every experience I’ve had with reading / writing all leading from one into the next and fusing together.d)
d Example: reading a story by Karl Taro Greenfeld several years ago, feeling strong resonance with it, then, last week, having an email exchange with him that evolved into him submitting a story for the magazine I edit.
8. But after my first story was published, what I got addicted to was seeing my byline and the notion of ‘getting paid to write.’
(I started pitching stories to the local alt weekly, the local paper, and eventually became a staff writer for both, writing everything from restaurant reviews to reports on town council meetings.e)
e Which, after coming home from pounding nails all day, I’d treat as some kind of covert operation, quickly showering, then consuming moderate (but still ‘functional’) amounts of caffeine and marijuana, feeling as if I had been almost chosen (see ‘madness’ 1.a) somehow to fulfill this particular role in our small Colorado town, i.e. taking notes at the meeting, then rushing home to write what I felt were fucking amazingly accurate / transparent reports and getting error-free copy to the paper in time for next morning’s printing, often working outside on my computer where, as it got past midnight, the car-sounds coming up Boulder Canyon would die out finally and there would just be wind sounds, typing, and occasional coyotes.
9. The way certain books have appeared at particular moments and led to other books, or helped define particular moments / places, has always felt semi-magical.
(Examples: The Stranger (an apartment in Athens, Georgia), What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire (while living out of my car in San Francisco), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (while wintertime thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail), Old Shirts, New Skins (after moving to Boulder), Notes from Underground (feeling settled in, finally in Seattle, but realizing we had to move again) Cathedral (passing through Futaleufu, Chile).)
10. When I was 25 I picked up Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda.
(The bilingual edition translated by Stephen Mitchell. The cover: a Gaugin painting of this girl (‘full’, ‘fleshy’, ‘hot’) holding a mango. I worked at a camp in Georgia. It’s where I grew up, where the woman had drawn the squiggly snakes twenty years earlier. I taught kids how to paddle canoes. I sang songs, told stories. hat summer I kept dropping Neruda’s lines and odes on people. I’d leave the book on the counselor cabin porch so anyone could read it. It started out as a joke, but as the summer went by, poems started getting read around beestings and tomatoes and feet, it kept building, adding layers, creating its own orbit. I thought Neruda would appreciate it. The more I read the more I’d look across the page to the Spanish original, the accented, Latinate words. That fall I went to Latin America for the first time, head-tripped, feeling maybe I could learn these words, this language, this other landscape.)