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Pub scrawl

Busy day; early on over scones, we're presented with a Chinese painting of birds in wisteria; then champagne brunch with an editor and his wife and daughter; finally, hooking up with Rodger Jacobs, who blew in from Vegas and landed at the Tam O'Shanter for a few hours. Jacobs is a head-of-the-table type, and flanking him were David Markland, John Shannon, and the missterious Miss L. Were your ears burning?

We all have our gripes; the table talk is the usual mashup of promise and knowing better. The former fishwrap of record hasn't reviewed John Shannon's latest book; it's only his tenth in the Jack Liffey oeuvre, so you wonder what the hell they're doing. Yet I also hear from someone, can't remember who, that pretentious local blogger Mark Sarvas eked out a first work, and was fairly savaged in the New York Times today, That works for me fine. You wish, though, that it had been a real book they reviewed; in print, something that shouldn't get looked at always displaces something that should.

Markland is 35; I don't quite yet hear the feeling in his conversation that I hear from the others. The feeling is the feeling you get when you sit down with other writers, look at them, they look at you, and after a few stories, everyone asks themselves, "How can it be so perpetually fragile, this vocation?" The gouache of decomposition and recomposition that is a writer's ordinary life drives conversation; you haul out what you know about so-and-so, even what you know about yourself, braving your own fragility. These aren't engineers comparing torsions or doctors talking illness; writers talk mostly about ups and downs, rarely about ins and outs.

What is most fascinating is the thing that nearly kills, but doesn't. When you leave college, you suppose that your life will be defined by what you write; no, it is defined by your own personal comedies and tragedies; writers tell stories, know stories, feel stories, and are obliged even to live them, too. It's always good to hear them spontaneously erupt, unadorned by the polish of text.