Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Letter

To Judith Claire Mitchell:

I normally don't do this kind of thing.
I mean, I read a lot. I'm a reader, y'know? It's not what I do, it's part of who I am. Non-readers don't get it, never will.
But write letters to authors? I think I wrote Stephen King once, when I was seventeen or so.
So I picked up "Scribner's BEST of the Fiction Workshops 1998" at the library book sale on a whim. Didn't even look at the contents, and frankly thought it was going to be a treasury of how-to and advice for writers. I am glad I was wrong.image
I read "A Man of Few Words" on the way in to work, on the bus, today. Just this morning. I started at the bus stop, I finished just before my stop.
I stepped off the bus with tears in my eyes and a hitch in my throat. I couldn't tell the bus driver to "Have a good day". I was afraid I would burst into tears, and that would look completely foolish. She already thinks I'm half baked.
Stories about fathers and sons get me every time, to some degree. Stories of love and loss. But this, this little gem that you crafted, this marvelous little diamond - it's the kind of story that could change things. Change people.
The first sentence grabs, the last sentence elevates. In between is home run after home run. The way Ike views his son's plastic surgery :

"How could he think the face belonged to him only?" : Priceless.

"By the color of fingernails."

My father's nails are crushed and mangled from decades of dirty work. What I tried to say in an entire blog post you said better in five words.

"If Ike had made a mistake, it was not in his failure to shout his love. It was his failure to teach the boy how to say "Boy, oh boy, that sun sure feels good on the back, doesn't it?"

If there is a lesson I long for my kids to learn from my life and example, it is this. Not wealth or power or fame, but small pleasures and simple things will you remember and cherish.

"I want to see her face," Ike says. "I want to see how pretty she looks."

I have never been so blown away so many times within one short little story. As a 41 year-old son and a father of sons and a daughter it spoke to me on so many levels I was literally dizzy.
This book will remain by my bedside on the "re-read" shelves for a long, long time. Even if every other story stinks - - which I doubt - - yours was more than worth the price of admission.
Of course at the library sale it was $.025, but it would have been worth full price had I paid it.
I will remember this story for the rest of my life.
Thank you.

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