Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What was hidden

I opened my eyes yesterday morning with no dread in my chest, the day just was, and I was ready to meet it, and then I remembered it was the day of my audit. A very good day for an audit, I thought, even though I had tried unsuccessfully to reschedule it. But my auditor didn't call me back, and so I was forced to get as ready as I could in the time I had. I hoped the 1.11.11 date would prove auspicious in the best way. I was at least willing to entertain signs of good rather than the certainty of catastrophe. I had worked hard to prepare and now all I had left to to do was make multiple copies of the paperwork and organize them in the neat plastic sleeves that my sainted accountant had given me.

As I dressed, it occurred to me that the process of preparing to meet the exam had not been without its gifts. The effort to put on paper the details that would allow the auditor to understand the nature of my work, forced me to grapple in a new way with a nonfiction book I am writing. Suddenly, I understood exactly how to organize it, I knew exactly what voice to use. I realized that so many of the random narratives I had been writing, stories that forced their way out of me, were in fact part of the book. I have chapters already completed!

And I realized that even though I have recently felt as if I didn't care one bit if I ever published another book, now the stirrings were in me again, I wanted this one to see the light, to exist in a form as substantial as Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club and Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns, which I now understood to be the godparents of my own effort. Both of these books are masterful pieces of literature, one of fiction, the other narrative nonfiction, and they are by writers whose voice and sensibility and practice put them at the very pinnacle of their craft. But, presumptuous as it might sound, these are the two books that, if they could birth a child, might produce the book I am trying to write—the book I finally understand that I am writing.

How did the audit go? Meh. It continues. But now I am calm. I know what its purpose in my life has been. So thank you, Uncle Sam. I know you'll take your pound of flesh but I got something, too.


  1. other book? do tell.

    and I can't wait to hold your work in my hands Angella.

    I will add the Wilkerson book to my list. Thank you.

  2. congrats on your bravery and calmness re the audit!

    and congrats to isabel wilkerson, sounds like a wonderful book - a title to remember to suggest for my book group! i like offering non-fiction since the rest of the group generally chooses fiction. which reminds me i still have to finish this month's bookgroup book! eek!

  3. p.s. i look forward to reading your upcoming book!!!!!

  4. The unexpected gifts of...travail. Adversity seemed too strong a word. The sloppy and imprecise language I use to describe this process to myself: sometimes we think the THING is the THING when it is really just the car that DRIVES us to the thing. To realize you have so much more work done than you thought, to feel re-energized for the book, to know just what you want it to be...thanks Uncle Sam. Angella, I think you got the best of this bargain.

  5. i think i did indeed get the better part of the bargain (although it is not over yet!) i love the idea of the thing being the car that drives us to the real thing. i followed that trail too. i really did.