|About the Book|
Alp, my first published novel, was written in Bolinas during the summer of 68. I had written two previous novels. A chapter from the first, Sometimes Horses Dont Come Back, appeared in the Random House collection: Prize College Stories, 63. TheMore Alp, my first published novel, was written in Bolinas during the summer of 68. I had written two previous novels. A chapter from the first, Sometimes Horses Dont Come Back, appeared in the Random House collection: Prize College Stories, 63. The second ms. earned me a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford in 67. A chapter from it, now called Last Rites, was later published in Oui magazine & included in the anthology, Fathers & Sons (Grove Weidenfeld.)When my fellowship ended, I had no money, no job & nineteen NY publishers who rejected my novel. In desperation, I took part-time work as stockboy in the Bolinas General Store. It felt like Id wasted my life trying to be a writer. At 27, I was little more than a bum. Still, Id written all my life & couldnt stop. I simply gave up any hope of making it my career. I also gave up all my acquired writing rules. (Write about what you know. Writing is serious work. Never write when stoned.) I broke all the rules. From now on, I would write only for amusement.I started a comic fantasy set in a make-believe Switzerland peopled with foolish mountain climbers, trolls, witches, honeymooners- making the whole thing up from day to day without a clue what would happen next. I wanted only to surprise myself. Tom McGuane (whom Id known since 1963, when we were both graduate students at the Yale Drama School) had just had his first novel, The Sporting Club, accepted by Simon & Schuster. I was jealous as hell. In those days, we traded our work, offering suggestions & helpful criticism. When Tom asked to see what I was working on I held back, my new stuff was just too weird. But, he persisted and I gave him the forty-odd pages Id finished. He read them over the weekend.Quite possibly the finest comic novel written in America, was Toms enthusiastic assessment. I couldnt believe my ears. He wanted to send the pages on to his editor. I complained it wasnt finished, that I had no idea where it was going. Worse, it was a messy first draft, covered with ballpoint corrections & Magic Marker deletions. Tom said it didnt matter. He would pay for a Xerox copy (25 cents a page then) & the postage, important considerations when working for minimum wage. About three weeks later, I got a call from Richard Locke, Toms editor, at the grocery store as I was too poor to afford a home phone. He offered a contract & advance. It felt like Id been anointed with a magic wand. I finished the weekend shift, quite my drudge job, & started in on the rest of my life as a professional writer.