“In the past, when things blocked up, I would go out and take a walk around the neighborhood, following familiar streets or ones less familiar and ending up at some unexpected corner. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to live in several regions/cities of France (Brittany, the North, Paris) and in the American Middle West (Iowa City) and the San Francisco Bay Area (Berkeley) with an East Coast detour (Cape Cod)—all places one would call, ‘walkable.’ Of course, nothing keeps me from taking a walk in the suburban neighborhood south of Los Angeles where I now live. There are sidewalks, empty most of the time, but the lack of life, the closed gates that sometimes hide a dog ready to launch into a fit of barking at my passage, the harsh sun beating down on me, none of these things are conducive to productive wanderings.
So I go out less often than in the past, stretching my legs by pacing around the room where I work. I try to wander around inside of my head instead, going into myself rather than going outside. (The current pandemic has only encouraged me in this direction.) During the writing of my book Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost, when I got stuck on something, I often translated a sentence, a paragraph, sometimes an entire page, into French. In passing through another language, I was able to come up with something new, something I would never have thought of in English.
It reminds me of a dialogue from a film (whose title I no longer recall):
—I’m going out.
—David Hoon Kim, author of Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021)