Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ellen Sussman talks about letting your writing marinate

Ellen Sussman's French Lessons, about how a single day in Paris changes the lives of three women, is already racking up some raves, including Ann Packer,  who says, "This is a novel to savor."  I asked Ellen if she'd write something for my blog, and I'm honored that she did.  Thank you, Ellen!

Let it Marinate
Ellen Sussman

I tried to write a novel about a young woman’s relationship with her dying mother about six months after my mother died. The novel failed. I didn’t put my creative energy into the work – I was reporting from the front lines. That’s not the way good fiction gets written – at least for me.

I need distance. I need separation. I need to forget what really happened and let my imagination soar.

I lived in Paris from 1988 until 1993. I loved my time there, even though I was raising babies and struggling with loneliness in my marriage. I was writing while I lived in Paris – but never about Paris. I’ll wait until I get home for that, I told myself.

Years passed and I never found my Paris story. I knew I had to write about Paris – no experience in my life had been richer, lived in such big bold colors. And it was a complicated time – I experienced life as a foreigner, with a new language and culture. I stepped outside of my comfort zone. I learned more about myself in that year than at any other point in my life. So why couldn’t I write about it?

I wasn’t ready. I needed to let those memories build flavor and intensity. I wanted to forget in order to remember those stories in a brand new way.

A few years ago, I was invited to teach at the Paris Writers Conference. My husband joined me for the trip and I bought him a gift – a week with a French tutor, walking the streets of Paris while I taught. After the first day, I figured out that not only was the tutor good at her job, but she was also young and beautiful. What a gift! And soon I had an idea for a novel: a happily married man feels the first stirring of lust for another woman – what does it do to him and to his marriage?

But I have so much more to say about Paris, I thought. And so I created two more Americans and two more French tutors, all of them walking the streets of Paris, talking about love and loss. The novel, FRENCH LESSONS, wrote itself in a mad rush. I had all that material, all those memories and impressions, ready to pour into my story.

Give me a good ten years to let an experience marinate. Over those years, I forget the details and the memories become fuzzy, vague. So when it’s time to sit down and write, I have to create the story on the page. I have to invent character and plot twists – I can’t rely on who was there and what happened, because I just don’t remember! That’s when my fiction comes alive – that’s when I’m making it happen on the page.

Michael Kimball talks about Us

One of my favorite books of the year is Us by Michael Kimball. I carried it around with me on the subway, and when I finished, I couldn't let it go. I kept it by my desk and kept rereading parts of it. Michael's also the author of four other fantastic novels including Dear Everybody and he's responsible for the innovative Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (On a Postcard), which I have inexplicably been too chicken and shy to do. He's one of my heroes, and I'm just dazzled to have him here. 

What sparked this particular book?

Us started out as a kind of an accident. I had approached the novel a few different ways, a few different times, none of which worked. Then I was sitting at my desk one night writing longhand and I wasn’t really thinking about anything in particular, but I just started writing this voice—the one that opens the first chapter—and it seemed to capture a feeling that I had in mind. I wrote a few chapters before I realized that I was writing about one pair of my grandparents who were around a lot when I was growing up, that I was writing about their last days together. I used my feelings about them and other people in my life that I have lost to write the novel, a kind of method writing, so to speak. The novel was written out of those feelings of loss and grief, but also very much out of love. I wanted the reader to feel what I felt or at least to understand it and to honor it. And there was a desire to fill in a void. I was trying to make something to replace two people who could not be replaced. I was imagining more life for my grandparents and it was a small comfort.

I deeply admire the structure, which is a moment-to-moment account of a particular time in an old marriage. What made you decide on this structure? Also, what strikes me is that this particular time is very much indicative of the whole and long marriage.

I found the structure after I found the voice. There was a really specific syntax, a particular way of describing things, and an especially particular thought-structure—the little leaps between his wife and almost everything else that he encounters. After that, I imposed some unspoken rules on the narrator—what he could describe and how. Limiting the scope of his narrative enacted a kind of close attention in what he tells us. There is great care and great love in that close attention, which makes it a culmination of sorts for their long and loving marriage.

The writing in this book seems so clear and clean and almost simple, yet every word is like an iceberg, with levels of meaning that radiate outwards. I've told you that I'm asking all my UCLA students to read this, as an example of what writing can and should do. How conscious were you of paring things down as you were writing, or does this simply come naturally to you?

I’m very conscious of paring things down. I’m trying to tell as much story and convey as much feeling as possible with as few words as possible. I’m making some assumptions about what a reader brings to reading a book when I do this. There is a lot that fiction writers don’t need to describe anymore. I get to that pared down state by drafting material and then distilling it, getting rid of everything that doesn’t seem absolutely necessary. This takes a different form in Us (where feeling is the thing that is compressed) than Dear Everybody (where it is story that is compressed). Also, I’m trying to write the kind of thing that I would most like to read. I want a kind of intensity, also a certain narrative speed, two things that compression can make happen.

You've said that the book is about "how love can accumulate between two people." It's such a deeply moving novel, and yet, despite the sorrow in it, it's also incredibly optimistic about love. Can you comment on this?

The behavior of the main narrator is driven by grief, both anticipatory grief and then actual grief, which becomes more extreme as the novel progress. The extreme grief is a sad and terrible thing, but only because the long love of their marriage is such a great and beautiful thing.

Can you talk about your writing process?

I used to have a terrible time getting anything down on the page. Once I did, once I had something to work with, then I would revise endlessly. But my writing process has evolved quite a bit over the years, I have found ways to open myself up on the page. I try to be brave on the page. I move into any space where I sense any kind of resistance—personal, emotion, aesthetic, etc. I try to be fearless. I try to let the voice tell the story and let the story tell me what it is. I try to find new ways to get from sentences to sentence. For instance, sometimes I find a word or phrase or turn by looking at the surrounding acoustics or graphics rather than by considering the semantic logic. It can lead to some surprising choices that I couldn’t possibly think of, but that I only have to recognize. It moves the narrative in different ways and helps the energy and the tension build. More and more, I’m trying to be open and receptive to anything happening on the page.

What's obsessing you now?

I just finished writing a new novel and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It takes me months to let go of the voices from my novels. So I’m at once obsessed with what I’ve just done and with trying to figure out what the next thing might be. Also, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a short film using this abandoned swimming pool that’s been filled in with dirt and has grass growing where the surface of the water would be. I can see some of the action and hear the soundtrack, but I feel as if I’m missing an important element, and I have no idea what it is.]

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

It would have been nearly impossible to come up with this, but you could have asked me what position I play for the Poet’s Athletic Club, which is a co-ed softball team made up of Baltimore writers and artists. I would have told you that I haven’t played organized anything in a couple of decades and that playing first base for the Poet’s Athletic Club is so much fun that it makes me feel like a giant kid.

Bestselling author John Shors talks about Cross Currents, writing and more

When bestselling author John Shors sent me a copy of his terrific new novel Cross Currents, he sent a little shell in a box along with it--which I now have on my desk and treasure as much as his book. Both Amy Tan and Robert Olen Butler have called him a masterful storyteller, and I'm chiming in. Cross Currents is an unusual story of a family's drama set against Thailand's 2004 tsunami and I'm thrilled to have John here to talk about it. Thanks, John!

I had asked John a bunch of questions, but it struck me how his answers read even better without the intrusion of my queries, so here they are, and thank you, thank you, John.

 I have been fortunate enough to do quite a bit of traveling overseas. One of the most magical places I’ve been to is a small island in Thailand known as Kho Phi Phi. There are no motorized vehicles. The beaches are perfect. The locals are friendly. When I first traveled to Kho Phi Phi in 1992 I felt as if I had uncovered an unknown slice of paradise. I returned every few years thereafter, and felt even more connected to the setting.

On December 26, 2004, I watched in horror on my television as images of the Indian Ocean Tsunami came to vivid life. Thailand was hit hard, and I soon learned that Kho Phi Phi was devastated. I wanted to fly to Thailand and help, but my wife and I had two toddlers at home, and international travel wasn’t practical. And I so I waited, finally returning to the island in 2007. I had expected to see widespread devastation, but the Thais had rebuilt almost everything. During my trip I spoke with many locals who had survived the experience, and their stories of saving others and being saved by others were extremely inspiring. It suddenly occurred to me that no one had ever written a novel about the Indian Ocean Tsunami, despite the fact that it was a global event. The seeds of Cross Currents were planted on that trip. I felt like I had an opportunity to create a special story and immediately starting thinking about how it might unfold.

The research for Cross Currents was fairly straightforward. I had been to Ko Phi Phi many times, so I felt as if I had a good understanding for the island and its inhabitants. The challenge in terms of the research was recreating the tsunami in an accurate way. To ensure success with this, I interviewed many Thais who had survived the event. Their descriptions gave me a strong sense of what happened. I came to imagine how the island was consumed by the wave.

One of my goals with my writing is to bring beautiful places and cultures to life on the page. To make that happen, I visit the places I write about, and get to know them well. Once I have created a rapport with a setting and a people, I then go back to the States and sit down and really think about the story that I want to tell. I create a detailed outline, though I find that once I’m neck-deep in the first draft that the story seems to gain a life of its own, taking me in directions that I hadn’t expected.

Well, I’m quite pleased with Cross Currents and am eager to see how people react to it. I’m donating some of the funds generated through the book to the International Red Cross, and am grateful that the support of so many readers allows me to do such things.

As far as what I’m working on now, I’m almost finished with my first draft of a work of historical fiction that is set in ancient Cambodia and has to do with the temple of Angkor Wat. It will be an epic story, somewhat akin to my first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, which brought the Taj Mahal to life. I haven’t written historical fiction for a few years, and it’s good to be back in the genre, though all of the research definitely adds a layer of work to the writing process.

And, of course, I’m thinking about future books. I know that I will write ten or maybe twelve novels in my career, so it’s important for me to take my time as I ponder what are the best stories for me to write, and for my readers to enjoy.

I also continue to talk with book clubs around the world (via speakerphone and Skype). To date, I’ve chatted with about 3,000 book clubs, which has been a great experience for everyone involved. It’s important for me to try and connect with my readers, and my book club program is one way of doing that.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Christine Sneed Talks about Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry

Christine Sneed is incredible.  Not only does she have this great, inventive website, that comes with literary brainteasers, puns, jokes, and more, she's also the author of a brilliant collection of stories: Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry (long listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize).  I'm thrilled Christine offered to write something for my blog. She's hilariously funny and truly, her collection is genius. 

A Casual Introduction: 

Several of the ten stories in Portraits examine the perils of love and what it means to live during an era when people will offer themselves, almost unthinkingly, to strangers. Risks and repercussions are never fully weighed.  Mysterious, dangerous benefactors, dead and living artists, movie stars and college professors, plagiarists, and distinguished foreign novelists are among the many different characters. No one is blameless, but villains are difficult to single out--everyone seemingly bears responsibility for his or her desires and for the outcome of difficult choices so often made hopefully and naively.

Getting Personal:

Q. I’ve been asked by a couple of readers why some of my characters seem to have easygoing attitudes about infidelity.  One reader recently said, “The people I know who have been cheated on don’t take it as well as your characters do.  Don’t you think they should be more upset when it happens to them?”
A.  My characters actually are upset about being cheated on, but I try not to write scenes that veer toward melodrama.  One of my goals with these stories is only to point toward the rage, jealousy and despair – all of the feelings that attend romantic disappointment – and to let readers imagine the rest for themselves.

Q.  Why are there so many May-December romances in this book?  Do you have an old-man fetish?  A sugar-daddy obsession?
A.  I don’t think I have an old man fetish, and I’ve never had a sugar daddy, but I am always curious about why two people decide to become a couple, and the different worldviews and experiences that two people with a big age gap frequently have to navigate have always interested me.  One of the stories, “By the Way,” was also a kind of assignment that I gave myself.  I wanted to write a convincing story with a twist on the usual May-December paradigm, that is, the woman is the older member of the couple – seventeen years older than her boyfriend.  She doesn’t believe in her boyfriend’s (truly earnest) feelings for her and is afraid that once he finds out how old she is, he will want to break up with her. 

Q. How many people have you made cry?
A.  Not too many, but yes, there have been a few.  The title story is about the granddaughter of a famous artist, and after his death, she finds a series of portraits in his study that he titled “People I’ve Made Cry,” all women, incidentally, because he was a lady’s man, something that kind of gives his rather prudish granddaughter the willies.

Q.  Why should I read these stories?
A.  I tried to be as honest as possible when writing them, especially about how I believe a lot of people, women in particular, feel about themselves when they’re falling in love, or feeling vulnerable to someone, or feeling the desire to be someone else.  There’s quite a bit of longing in these ten stories, and many insecurities on display.  I don’t know how interesting it would be to read a story about someone who doesn’t ever worry or feel afraid or jealous or angry.  I think much of what defines human character is how we handle our insecurities.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Emily Gray Tedrowe, author of Commuters, talks about writing and dreams

Emily Gray Tedrowe wrote a really knockout novel: Commuters. A Target Breakout Pick, An Indie Next Pick and an Entertainment Weekly "Best New Paperback," this is an assured debut about marriage, money and home, and it is also very much a book about what we yearn for and dream about--and why. I asked Emily if she'd write something for the blog, and I'm so thrilled that she did.  Thank you so much, Emily. 

            One night earlier this year, as I was closing in on a full draft of my second novel, I dreamed that I showed the manuscript to the characters in the novel.  As in most dreams, this had the sense of perfect plausibility.  In the dream, I received praise and feedback from my characters with a polite but privately skeptical attitude I’m afraid I take on for real-world critiques. . . and was shocked when one character broke away to denounce the novel entirely.
            Awake, I turned the dream over and over, trying to find a key to help the actual writing of my book which was in full-steam, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel mode.  Friends and fellow writers were amused by my dream about the dissatisfied character: kill him off, they advised.  Rethink giving him a weight problem.  Eventually I decided that the medium was the message—I cared so deeply about these people (characters) and was so caught up in their story, that I couldn’t leave them even while unconscious.  A good sign.
            But I’ve often wondered before this about the relevance of dreams to my writing life.  Fortunately or not, depending on how you look at it, I usually remember my dreams each night.  I write them in my journal, tell them to my therapist, bore my husband with them.  But what can one’s dreams mean to a writer?  Aside from the fun of psychoanalyzing yourself, why pay attention?  A few thoughts:
·      Dreams reveal your imagination.  Freud famously compared the way dreams work to the structure of poetry, with condensing, metaphor, and substitution as key elements.  I like to extend this to fiction, and play with the notion of my dreams as mini-fictional engines.  I think about them in terms of mood, point of view, conflict, dialogue.  Writers in the flow of creating often experience their work as if it arrives without conscious effort; by eavesdropping on my dreams, I try to catch my imagination unawares and learn more about what it’s got going on.
·      Give a dream to a character?  So far I’ve only done it once, in a short-short story I built entirely around a favorite dream about a hungry ghost.  There’s a fiction-workshop truism that for every dream you lose a hundred readers.  You’re warned off at all costs, and sure, we can guess why—too-obvious reveals, banal stand-ins for character development, etc etc.  But I must admit that any time a conventional-wisdom “rule” comes my way I immediately want to break it.  If you’ve got the chops, it’s not your rule. 
·      Dreams remind you to honor what’s unexpected.  I once read Ann Beattie urging writers to open up their scenes to sudden swerves; the example she gave is a scene in which a couple is arguing—what if a bird flew inside through their open window?  Dreams also return us to the beauty of what startles.  So even if I don’t write about that dream where my yoga teacher suddenly produces a giant foam cheese slice for the class to practice savasana underneath—true dream—it might jar my work open to the power of the unexpected, the funny, the messy ways of life.   

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Susan Schneider talks about The Wedding Writer and the wedding biz

When I first met Susan Schneider, I felt like we had been friends forever--that's how warm and funny she is. It fascinated me that she had worked for years in the bridal industry, and when I found out she had written a book based on her experiences, that intrigued me even more!  I can't thank Susan enough for being here on my blog and answering my questions.

What's so wonderful about your novel are the you-are-there behind the scenes episodes about how the bridal industry works. All of it true?

Tip of the iceberg! It’s a striving, gritty business filled with smart, talented women with agendas. The wedding magazines historically were huge, slumbering cash cows. With the Internet everything changed—print advertising took a great big hit. A couple of years ago Conde Nast folded Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, and many, many accomplished editors (old friends of mine) were thrown out of work. What does an out-of-work bridal editor do when she gets “divorced’ from her job? But even before the Internet and the recession, things could get really scary. When I was at Modern Bride, the editor in chief brutally fired the long-time fashion editor, a brilliant, iconic woman beloved in the industry who was also the sole support of two children. How could one woman, also a mother, do that to another? Issues of power and control, what else? Behind the veil lurk nasty power struggles as well as deep and meaningful friendships between women working together to create a beautiful product.

What was it like for you working in the bridal industry for so long? I see you have some great blurbs from the industry but do you think there are some things about it the industry would rather keep secret?

I saw weddings get more and more elaborate and expensive—I saw women with modest means trying to emulate celebrity weddings and the weddings of the wealthy. Yikes! I understand the desire to be beautiful and admired, but as a deep-down feminist I also wished that more women could be like those who call a time-out and say, “Hey, my having or not having this $10,000 dress will neither make me or break me as a human being.”  Many of us tried to reassure engaged women that they really don’t have to have a “perfect” day—in fact there is no such thing! But bridal editorial is always slanted toward the notion of “perfection.”  Achieving your day of bliss. It leaves in its wake lots of overwhelmed, confused, anxious women in white dresses who’ve spent too much money and still wonder if they failed.

I also loved the way you dissected office politics (which really can occur anywhere, not just in the bridal business). Would you say that in many ways working at an office is like a marriage of sorts? (Some happier than others?)

That is so true! The specific dynamic at bridal magazines and indeed all women’s magazines is that those “marriages” are played out between women. I’ve always been an executive editor to the editor in chief, so my role was “wife.”  With one editor the “marriage” totally failed; we got a divorce! In another I became an enabler—another eventual divorce. In a way an office is just a backdrop against which people act out their family or marital issues—that’s why office politics can be so murderous.

What is your writing life like?

For me it’s been quite a struggle. As a single working mother, I had to raise a child in NYC and also bring home the bacon. Then my daughter grew up and out of the house and other things in my life got a bit easier. But I can’t write if: I’m worried about my daughter or I’m worried about money. Or if I’m worried about a relationship with a man. Life interrupts writing all the time, and you can’t do much about that, but I do try to keep on an even keel. I don’t need the “perfect” environment—the little cottage in the woods—I just need relative peace and financial security. And oh boy, thank God for aging! Your life gets pared down and you can focus better.

What's obsessing you now?
My rooftop garden on West 80th Street. How I love it! It is so critical for city people to find some way to be with nature. Even if it’s just a houseplant you like, you need to commune with it everyday.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?
This covers it nicely for me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pictures of You is a Top, Smart Summer Read from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Self, O: the Oprah Magazine and more!

Ah, summer. Books get packed into your beach bag right along with the sunblock (or, if you aren't a beach baby, they get tucked in your bag to read on the subway!) Pictures of You came out last December and I'm honored and thrilled to report that it's a Top, Smart Summer Read from The Minneapolis Star TribuneSelf Magazine and O: the Oprah Magazine and GolocalProv.com ! Ya hoo!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sharyn Wolf talks about Love Shrinks: A Memoir of a Marriage Counselor's Divorce

What happens when a marriage counselor's marriage hits the rocks? Author Sharyn Wolf, a marriage counselor and psychotherapist practicing in New York City, writes about it in Love Shrinks: A Memoir of a Marriage Counselor's Divorce." I asked Sharyn if she'd write something about that here, and I'm thrilled she said yes. Thank you, Sharyn!

Love Shrinks: a memoir of a marriage counselor’s divorce
                                                 By Sharyn Wolf

Writing “Love Shrinks” was a scary proposition for me.  I’ve been a marriage counselor and psychotherapist for twenty years, and it has been my job to listen.  It has never been my job to tell. And, this book is about my divorce. It’s all about telling—all about revisiting a painful past.

In the 90’s I had a career as a “relationship expert.”  I appeared on more than 400 television and radio shows including eight visits on Oprah. People looked to my perky, upbeat advice on how to stay lovers for life, and they seemed to like my funny delivery. I was one the one who said, “The problem is the place you start working; not the place you stop working.”  And, “When you have the energy to throw him out of the window, you can use that same energy to make love work.” The truth is that while I was delivering all these sassy sound bites, I was going home every night to a failed marriage of my own.

We couldn’t cooperate to buy furniture for our home.  We didn’t share meals.  We had sex three times in thirteen years. It was shocking.  The better I got on TV and as a psychotherapist, the worse my home life became. I was freaked out because I was living such a lie.

I came to realize that my evangelistic fervor to help others was really an attempt to help my own marriage.  I was desperate for it to improve.  But, no matter what I said or did at home (I tried all of my own advice on my husband), nothing helped. Still, I couldn’t leave this man for so many reasons.

He was the man who danced me across the living room floor in my pajamas while the stereo played the love theme from “Beauty and the Beast.” He was the man who climbed into bed with my dying aunt when she said she wanted to rest her head on his belly. He was the man who gave me his silly mosquito net hat when we were hiking, and I forgot to bring mine.

And yet, he was the man who never read a word of one of my books no matter how much I begged.  He was the man who would not listen to me talk about my work no matter how much that meant to me.  He was the man who got shoe polish all over our new white couch and refused to put a cover on it or take off his shoes.

After fifteen years, I stepped out of the grey landscape of my marriage, and I filed for divorce.  It was messy. It was long. It was a pity. I now receive another kind of media interest that isn’t as much fun; I am the marriage counselor who couldn’t keep her own marriage intact.

Janice Eidus Writes about My Sibling/Myself

I'm thrilled to have a guest post from Janice Eidus today. She's a novelist, short story writer, and essayist and not only that, she's twice won the O. Henry Prize, as well as a Pushcart Prize, a Redbook Prize, and many other awards. Thank you so much Janice for being here today!


Almost 20 years ago, my older sister, Alice, died of chondrosarcoma, a rare, disfiguring cancer, before I had the emotional strength to begin to fix our unhappy relationship. She often appears in my writing, however, as I continue to struggle to understand and repair our relationship.
In my essay called, “Her True Face,” published in “Arts & Letters,” I wrote as objectively as I could about her illness and my relationship with her – as objectively as I could, that is, about a sister whose face was disfigured past recognition and who’d once said to me, in a rage, “You will owe me forever, because Daddy has always loved you more than he loves me!” Writing that essay, I lingered on the way she dressed and acted prior to her illness: “In her diaphanous nightgown, her cigarette emitting a lacy trail of smoke, she’s the epitome of some long-ago glamour queen.” I also wrote of all the times when we were children, and “… she pummeled me with her fists, pulling my hair … telling me how much she despised me.”
In my comic novel, Urban Bliss, I transformed her. Rather than aim for objectivity, I took the qualities I’d most enjoyed in her and affectionately exaggerated them, including her adoration of all things traditionally feminine, such as diaphanous nightgowns and slim cigarette holders. Maya Bliss, the older sister of the novel’s protagonist, Babette Bliss, exclusively wears pink ruffled clothes and lives in an all-pink New York City apartment. Maya Bliss is also the loving, somewhat daffy, mother of a little girl she dresses (naturally) all in pink. Alice never had the chance to be a mother in life, and it felt reparative for me to imagine this wackier version of her taking on that role.
In my most autobiographical novel, The War of the Rosens, which takes place in the ‘60s in the Bronx, I wrote about Alice again, portraying her as an angry, deeply-religious child named May with brain cancer, as well as an obsessive crush on a blond, blue eyed boy in the neighborhood. In reality, Alice wasn’t super-religious as a child, although she became so as a young adult, nor did she have any painful, unrequited, obsessive crushes during her childhood as far as I knew (those came later). But making her alter-ego in the novel younger and grappling with a different kind of cancer allowed me to delve as deeply into the truth of our relationship as my nonfiction had – but with a different slant. In fiction, I was able to offer her, and myself, a redemptive ending that we never had in life. In this scene, toward the end of the novel, the younger daughter, Emma, witnesses the dying May at last being kissed by the boy for whom she has yearned:  “Emma stands in the doorway, her heart stirred by the sight of May’s awkward body gathered in Marvin’s golden arms. They are kissing passionately, their bodies entwined, as if they will be together for eons and centuries to come, their love the stuff of poetry and dreams.”