How I Wrote Tides: A Novelist’s Search for Solitude

0

In the summer of 2017, I left New York, where I had lived for seven years, and moved to Boston, Massachusetts. My stay in New York had been mixed. I had tried and failed to get my first novel published; I had worked in a job that I found rewarding, but which offered neither health insurance nor a future. At the end of my stay, I was tired of the city which reminded me, every day, of all that I had not acquired while staying. And so I left, happy with the start.

And yet, once settled in the new city, near the university where my husband was going to attend the school of architecture, a new weariness crept in. On Saturday morning, my husband having long gone to the workshop, I walked through the sleepy neighborhood, with its introverted quarters. determined students and joggers, and I searched for a life on the streets, a civic sense, any real sign of the life I might lead, now that I had left the old one behind.

I was greeted by a familiar and discouraging feeling; that by leaving, I had become the one who remained

The image then often came back to me of the Italian café in Montreal that I frequented at university, of this convivial period of my life before I knew that I wanted to write. Or sometimes my mind would wander further afield and let myself be caught on a bus somewhere, anywhere, a seaside town perhaps. The city itself was less important than the room where I would be staying. In this room, I was always alone, with just what I needed: a single bed, a chair, a desk, an electric kettle, a pen and paper, and a door that I could close and lock behind me.

I’ve always been drawn to books and films that portray their characters, most often women, who drift away from their lives: leaving their spouses, their children, their towns, their apartments, their jobs. by Anne Tyler Scale of years is one of those works. It’s a conventional story, about a 40-year-old middle-class Baltimore woman, Delia, who finds herself leaving her husband and three children behind during a beach vacation. She hitchhikes to a nearby town and slowly builds a life there that, in its asceticism and loneliness, seems as far, at least at first, from the old as possible.

Subscribe to The Big Problem

From just £3 per week

Grab a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide an essential lifeline to our work. With every subscription we reinvest every penny to support the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you’ll never miss weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

Alone for the first time in her life, Delia discovers her own desires, separated from her relationships, from the roles she tacitly assumes: mother, wife, sister, secretary, pivot of the social and domestic life of her family. Every mundane item she acquires for her spartan boarding room—a gooseneck lamp, an immersion heater, a romance novel—is a triumph over her story of conformity.

I must have desired, my first year in the new city, this kind of solitude too, the one one chooses in a single decisive act of free will. Although I had hoped that this move might help me write another novel, I had left, in truth, not for me but for my husband’s degree. And as I tried to find the courage to start over, I felt the familiar, disheartening feeling that by leaving, I had somehow become the one left behind.

Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.