Currently At Work on a Novel

March 1, 2008

People in these stories delight in trees, flowers, and birds; they relish conversation; . . . they often love one another. In Greenwich Village, a talented wife-and-mother resists friends who encourage her to complete her paintings, her cookbook, her life. . . . Julie Hayden, born in New York City in 1939, was graduated from Radcliffe College in 1961. She has been on the editorial staff of The New Yorker since 1975 and is currently at work on a novel.
jacket copy for The Lists of the Past,
          a collection of Julie Hayden’s short stories published by Viking in 1976
          Ms. Hayden died in 1981.

Eden Kennedy, who started NaBloPoMo, the effort to blog every day in November, has decided to go monthly with the concept. It’s a way to keep the community active and to allow writers to take any month to focus on developing the daily writing habit. She promised an optional theme for each month, for those who need some kind of structure or prompt to keep writing. The theme for March is “lists.”

I already have five lists with five items each, drawn up on May 5, 2005. I did it in response to a suggestion from a longtime journaller who thought it might be fun to create something special for the magical date of 05-05-05: Think of five categories, and list five items in each category. Here’s what I came up with:

I. Five Temporary Jobs I’ve Held
1. Patient care aide in a nursing home, summer 1968
2. Telephone magazine sales person, summer 1966
3. Clerk in Woolworth’s basement, summer 1963
4. Fitting room checker, summer 1969
5. Table bus girl at hotel dining room, summer 1967

II. Five Relationships That Didn’t Last Long
1. Joe, a man who wrote songs that he sang to me while accompanying himself on the bongo drums
2. Steve, a man who thirteen years later murdered his wife
3. Doug, a man who never washed dishes, fed the cats by dumping the food on the floor, and constantly told his dog to “lay down”
4. Paul, a classical radio station announcer who told me every time we were together how much he disliked children
5. Jack, a man who reprimanded me for not laughing at his friend’s joke – the butt of the joke was the recently-assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr.

III. Five Young Men Whose Brief Care of Me Will Never Be Forgotten
1. Fred, who wrote a song for me
2. Rick, a future wood shop teacher (“Date an Industrial Arts Major – They’re Good With Their Hands”)
3. David, a violinist who once told me I was too thin
4. Glenn, a man with some sexual identity issues who brightened the miserable summers of 1973 and 1974
5. Larry, who struck up a conversation with me in the bookstore line my first day on campus and guided me through my freshman year as friend and mentor. He died in a motorcycle accident in 1967.

IV. Five Favorite Paintings
1. The Horse Fair
2. Nicolaas Rubens Wearing a Coral Necklace
3. I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold
4. Starry Night
5. The Red Balloon

V. Five Places I Can’t Visit Again Because They’re Not There Anymore
1. 2901 Canby Street, borough of Penbrook, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – my first home, 1947-1954
2. The “old school” of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament parish, 5th and Maclay Streets in Harrisburg, where I attended second grade, 1954-1955
3. 237 College Avenue, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, once apartments housing Franklin & Marshall students, now the site of medical offices for St. Joseph Hospital
4. Classroom B-4 at Lower Dauphin High School – the school was gutted and remodeled in 1995, and this space became the library, losing all its former characteristics.
5. My friend Dennee’s house across from mine on Fifth Street – the end of a row of five, it fell victim to urban decay and began to crumble before it was demolished. The rest of the row stands.

“Wow! I can’t say I have nothing to write about,” I noted. And I resolved to write a complete piece about each over the summer.

I wrote only two, one about Larry (III.5) and one about The Red Balloon (IV.5), an essay I’d already begun and which I revised in the last six months. My winter depression is lifting, and I’m starting to pick up the pieces of projects and plans that got lost over these last weeks when about all I could do was keep fresh food in the refrigerator and clean clothes in the drawers and try to put together a manuscript for my Bread Loaf application that won’t get me laughed out of that community forever. March is the month of my birthday, a good time, I thought, to do some autobiographical writing.

I was going to call this piece “The Lists of the Past,” since that’s what forms the basis for my writing plans this month. I remember reading Julie Hayden’s book in a library copy in 1976 and liking it very much. It was the first summer I lived in this house, and a line about a character’s pulling her house around her like a shawl stayed with me. Within the last five years I desired to read the collection again, and ordered it from a seller of used books. When it arrived, I put it in a pile with other books to be read and didn’t open it until today.

I drew it down from the shelf today, hoping to find an epigraph. I could not easily find one in the story that is built around the lists of chores that the homeowner keeps. I read the short biographical blurb again and wondered what had become of the novel it said Julie Hayden was working on. I googled the author’s name.

Julie Hayden died five years after her only story collection was published. She was forty-two years old.

I’m “currently at work on a novel” myself, as well as short stories, personal essays, and sundry other miscellaneous projects. I have friends who love me and encourage me. It’s time I got busy. And read Julie Hayden’s work again, that she not be forgotten.

To be included on the notify list, e-mail me:
margaretdeangelis [at] gmail [dot] com (replace the brackets with @ and a period)

website page counter

This entry was posted in General.