Saturday, June 28, 2014

Alarming Woman in a Cemetery

Megan Abbott came back to town - for just one night, alas! - to talk about her excellent new novel THE FEVER. I did a little Q&A thing with her at Square Books and encouraged her to tell the story about when she, as a child, saw two drunken old salts perched together on a New England gravestone, yelling imprecations at those who would disturb the dead, and one of them had a big, vivid, and fresh wound on his neck. After the event, Jimmy, who was present, said the story reminded him of the time Barry Hannah "saw a naked woman on a gravestone and it scared him." I told Jimmy I was unfamiliar with the story. He said it was in an essay he had sent me. I remembered the essay, but I did not remember the naked woman on the gravestone, a strange thing not to remember. I remembered some things about writing from the essay. Here's a slice I have cut and pasted for you with little skill:
Later, on the same subject, Barry observes, "The well-groomed square will often outwrite the professional hippie, and I have witnessed the unsettling fact that fine novels come from men and women with so little personality they are not even annoying." There is a Roger Miller song called "Squares Make the World Go 'Round" that is concerned with a similar subject, in which Miller posits that "Government things can't be made do/ By hipsters wearing rope-soled shoes." But what of the naked woman on the old tombstone? Jimmy sent me the essay after a Good Idea Club that had gone especially late, and I was probably asleep and/or intoxicated when I read it. My poor eyes must have missed the section that began "That summer I met an alarming woman in a cemetery..." Rereading it, or reading it for the first time, I see that she is sitting on a grave, but she does have her clothes on. Later there is some partial disrobing. The cemetery is next to a reservoir where UFOs are said, by a neighbor, to land to "take on water."