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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Start With A Tree


"How do you write? My answer is that I start with the trees and keep right on straight ahead. A writer writes, and if he begins by remembering a tree in the backyard, that is solely to permit him gradually to reach the piano in the parlor upon which rests the photograph of the kid brother killed in the war. And the writer, 9 or 10 years old at the time, can notice that his mother is crying at the loss of the kid brother, who, if the truth is told, was nothing much more than any kid brother, a brat, a kind of continuous nuisance, and yet death had made him the darling of the family heart. And so I wrote it, starting with the old English walnut tree with every year literally thousands of the magnificent hard fruit, which, when you removed the black casing, which dried and could be made to crumble away to the grooved shell, which then you could break with a hammer and then behold as a design of intricate engineering, of art, of construction, the hardwood slick and light brown in its convolutions in which the meat of the nut, as it is called, had ripened to a substance with the most subtle and satisfying flavor implanted into anything that creatures including human beings and small boys, like Henry and Willie, as my brother and I were referred to by other members of the family and neighborhood, and still are, thank God, could remove from the shell and put into the mouth and taste and chew and swallow and never suspect that indeed that is how we do, how we live, how we die, how we write, how we read."
William Saroyan (1908-1981)

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