a first raw scene from the Florence novel, for Alice

Friday, November 2, 2012

Next semester at Penn I'll be teaching my memoir class and at the same time working with Alice Ma, whom I selected from a slate of talented students as my Bassini Writing Apprentice, a program hosted by the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing.  Alice will be working with me on the research of my next novel.  We'll be talking about how fact becomes fiction.

Now nearly 50 pages into the writing of this book, a novel mostly about Florence, I stop to post these few words for Alice.  There are scenes in this novel that flash back to the University of Pennsylvania campus, where my heroine grew up with her professor dad.  We're at the Frank Furness-designed Fisher Fine Arts Library with this small, raw, very new (written an hour ago) scene:
... I remember being five or six or seven.  I remember Mom saying, "Let's go surprise your father."  I remember her taking Jack in one hand and me in the other and walking us down the wide wood steps of our Spruce Street twin and through the leafy corridors of West Philadelphia until we reached the edge of the sleeping giant campus.  We were a parade of three.  We were young and smart, and the campus was silver and brick, moss and ivy, castles and courtyards, and at the far end of our forever journey sat the fine arts library, red and round and tall and chimneyed, fantastic as something from the Brothers Grimm.  That's where Dad would be—through the heavy notched doors and past the turnstile, in the massive reading room.  It was a courtyard space with a roof four stories high.  It was arches and arched southern sun.  It was big books with thin pages and the smell of old things, cracked pencils, eraser nubs.
    "Oh, my loves," Dad would say, "here you are."  As if we'd wakened him from something.  As if history were now.  And my mom would lean toward him and let her long hair fall, like a screen between their love and ours.
  My mother loves my father.  She's just forgotten why.


patti.mallett_pp said...


Anonymous said...

You're brave to post something so new but I can see why! Your raw is my partially baked. :)

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