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Living the Life, Feeling All Right
Five years ago I spent the better part of a day in early June talking with David Rhodes, a writer who published three well-regarded novels in the early 1970s and then, after suffering a devastating motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the sternum down, didn’t publish another novel for more than thirty years. The occasion for the interview was the publication of Driftless (Milkweed Editions, 2008), a novel set in rural southeastern Wisconsin, where Rhodes lives with his wife, Edna. (You can read the profile at www.pw.org/content/after_flood_profile_david_rhodes.) Among the many things the talented, humble, sensitive, and—I don’t mind using the word—wise novelist told me was that writing had become a necessary part of his life. “If I don’t write,” he said, “I don’t feel right.” This month Milkweed is publishing his new novel, Jewelweed, and I can’t convey just how happy it makes me to know that readers don’t have to wait another three decades to read more of this novelist’s work—and even more important, that during the five years since I last saw him, evidently Rhodes has been feeling all right.
And so it goes. Writers write. It’s who they are. Perhaps they stop for a time—there will be interruptions—but inevitably they end up back where they belong. As I, along with the rest of the editorial staff, worked long and hard on this issue—from the relative comfort of our own office, it’s worth noting; after more than three months of displacement following the hurricane last October, we are back where we belong—it has been humbling and inspiring to think of the tens of thousands of poets and writers who are working, working, working on the next new thing of their own. Authors like David Rhodes, and authors like Benjamin Percy (page 29), Daphne Kalotay (37), Ruth Ozeki (33), Claire Messud (40), Frank Bidart (48), Nancy Zafris (72), and Bennett Sims (75), all of whom have new books out. And poets and writers such as Inara Verzemnieks and Aram Kim (60), who have yet to publish books but continue to develop their craft and submit their work to writing contests and seek acknowledgment, support, and community. For those writers, and especially for those who have not received that kind of validation, it’s my sincere hope that this magazine offers some of the encouragement that is vital to a life of sustained creativity. Keep doing what you’re doing, and thanks for reading.