Second Chances

Friday, October 3, 2008

I posted earlier this week about the gifts of friendship yielded by the mostly private writing life; I wrote, particularly, about Jayne Anne Phillips.

My story was about the time I'd spent with Jayne Anne in Prague; Jay Kirk, that enormously gifted writer whom I've praised in other blog entries (most recently that gorgeous Rwanda piece in GQ) and whom I've benefited so hugely from knowing since 2005, wrote to tell me about the quality of a critique Jayne Anne had given him at Bread Loaf. The email dialogue went (paraphrasically) thusly:

Me: Wait. What year were you at Bread Loaf?

Jay: I was there in '96.

Me: As was I. Grace Paley. Anne Lamott. The gorgeous Olena Kaltyiak Davis. Jane Satterfield. Brooks Hansen.

Jay: Wait. You were in our class? Or were you teaching...

Well, indeed. You get that point. Apparently, I've known Jay since 1996. Apparently, we sat in the same small classroom. Surely, I read pages from his then novel-in-progress; I remember the beating pulse of the guy's talent. And beyond this being one of those ain't-life-strange conjunctions, it raises for me this question:

How do I keep managing to trip up against blazing talents who are also (don't ever take this for granted) hugely good souls? The sort of people I need to know, because without them I wouldn't think nearly as hard. I had the chance to know Jay a long time ago, it seems. I was given (fluke that it was) a second chance. Thank goodness I was finally paying attention in '05. It would have been lousy if I hadn't.


PJ Hoover said...

Life seems to be full of opportunities. It wants us to be happy.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

poetjanes said...

Oh, paying attention. . . what we see and what we miss and what circles back to surprise us--there's a whole book there for you, Beth . . .

How I wished I'd gotten to know Jayne Ann beyond observing--with deep fascination--her fearless writing, her black-painted nails, and her insistent dragging of a boom box into the cocktail parties at Tremont so that there would be music!

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