I can't possibly manage a cheerful post about my author photo this month, and there isn't much of a story behind it anyway. (I pointed a camera at a mirror.) My utterly beloved and amazing grandmother, Anne Porter, died on October 10th, just short of age 100. I'm not quite here, but in some half-zone where memory layers over the present and obscures it.
But Grammy was a writer, too. A poet, not famous or anything but noted enough to have once been a finalist for the National Book Award--and now memory clouds in again, and again I'm not here but seeing her wide astonished eyes and hearing her gentle, tremulous voice as she told me the news.
So I'd rather write about her. Her writing was nothing like mine; our philosophies and ideas around writing were, too some extent, opposed. By the time I finally had a published book, her eyesight wasn't good enough to let her read it, and I'm not sure she would have liked it anyway. (Indeed, she annoyed me by assuming that, since it was a book about mermaids, it must be florid and cheesy, and have a golden-haired protagonist with emerald eyes. No, I said; Luce has short dark hair, and her eyes are charcoal. Charcoal? Grammy asked, sincerely surprised.)
So how can I claim her as an influence? She was a poet of light and nature, the everyday and the innate closeness of the transcendent; I am a novelist of the dark and fantastical, of the bitter struggle towards a transcendence that often eludes or betrays. What commonality is there, apart from a commitment to language and a gene pool?
Maybe the sense that the right words allow the emotions they convey to come out of hiding, to gain a charged vitality. Language is the window that lets us open ourselves and our experience. And maybe the light I learned from her still crosses the darkness of my own work. Those beams catch certain details and make them shine, just brightly enough that they can tell the truth as I know it.