I stole a book from Marigny Perks in New Orleans. It wasn’t intentional. I found it in my bag once I was home, a klepto move. For weeks after pangs of guilt stabbed my side. I “had time” for poolside cocktails, so why didn’t I “have time” to drive back over to Marigny Perks?
Guilty. Guilty as charged. And when I unpacked in Athens, Ohio, guess who tagged along? My rationalization is I have also left many books at coffeeshops, so this is all part of the great karmic book swap. And I donated a box of books (good ones!) to the Nola library. I could tell myself I’m going to mail the book. But I’m not. But I can apologize.
Bless me Father for I have sinned. I have stolen. I’m sorry Marigny Perks. You are a good, kind, independently owned business and did nothing to deserve my immorality and sloth.
The book is a Best American Essays, which should be called Best of The New Yorker. I could grumble about this, since I will never be in The New Yorker, but maybe The New Yorker is arguably, the best literary magazine in America. At the very least, it is the best magazine in America containing the most articles that go unread. Anyone who has subscribed can testify that issues pile up at a terrifying rate. And those articles are long. Probably a “best of” is necessary so that some of these meticulously fact-checked works get a shot.
When I first picked up the book, I scanned the list. I like this part because I enter the mind of the reader. Which titles and author names will catch my attention? My eye caught Atul Gawande, The Learning Curve. The name was unusual, and the essay had the same title as a David Sedaris story.
The Learning Curve is written from the doctor perspective (Dr. Gawande I realized often covers medical topics for The New Yorker), discussing the hush-hush that surrounds medical training. He admits that the only way to learn medical procedures is to do them. Meaning, medical professionals have to practice on people.
Tip: Don’t ever have surgery at a teaching hospital in the fall.
The analogy applies to writing. The only way to write is to write. The MFA research and the books on writing can only get you so far. At some point you pull out the scapel and cut.
Tip: Don't ever pull out and reread your first MFA workshop submission from the fall.
Dr. Gawande also mentioned he grew up in Athens, Ohio, and how his father is a Dr. Gawande there too. This caught my eye because I was moving there in a month.
I’m here now. My apartment has two stories. From my bedroom window I have a voyeur’s view of a wealthy person’s backyard; an A-framed structure with many windows, a pool and a luscious landscape.
When I first saw the apartment, I joked to the landlady about being the poor grad student with opulent view, and made pawing motions at the glass, like when my cat wants out.
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “That’s Dr. Gawande.”