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Marian Lindberg

So you found out you’re really Brazilian?

Not exactly. Brazil is where the book’s central character disappeared, and where I went to understand why.

 

Every family has its dirty laundry. Why was it necessary to write about yours?

Some of the most personal passages were the last to be added. The writing brought me there, and they were integral to the story. In some ways, they were the story, explaining (to myself and others) why I was so driven to investigate the disappearance of the man who raised my father. While there are some unflattering aspects of family members on display, I don’t believe any of it is gratuitous. Patti Smith and Philip Schultz were two of my guides: their beautiful memoirs are revealing and discreet at the same time. Ultimately, I hope that my message will help others to communicate better within their families. In the short term, truth can seem like the more difficult choice, but my story shows that secrets can have far worse consequences for generations.  

AldenJonesThe adjectives “dark” and “raw” are often used to describe the stories in Unaccompanied Minors. Are you a “dark” person? Is there perhaps something wrong with you?

It’s funny you should ask that. My wife and I have an ongoing struggle with television and what to watch together. She can’t handle anything violent or cruel. Somehow every show I love involves this element of intensity and often this intensity is measured by how far into some area of darkness – crime, violence, psychological terrain – the show and the characters are willing to go. She says “Modern Family!” and I say “True Detective!” And we meet in the middle with “Orange is the New Black.” So this is something I think about a lot: Why am I drawn to the dark side?

Photograph of Novelist Katie CrouchBestselling author Katie Crouch (Men and Dogs; Girls in Trucks) has a new book out. Abroad is a quick-moving, high-action read that plays out both our best and worst fantasies of being a young, beautiful foreigner in Italy. Her characters are so perfectly drawn, so wonderfully vivid, you might just confuse them for people you actually know (or have read about in the news!).

In Transit

By Dan Coxon

Travel

London Map

Our home slumbers in pieces, in boxes, in brown paper wrap. Room after room of brown paper wrap. Ridiculously oversized parcels block the corridors and doorways in the shape of sofas, free-standing multi-purpose bookcase units. Then there are the boxes. Towering, teetering stacks of brown boxes, their contents pared down to single words on the side. Bedroom; bathroom; kitchen; lounge. Check.

Gross_TurkWhoLoved_PB_mech.inddIn early 2005, after I’d finished an assignment for the New York Times in northern Thailand, I took a weekend trip to Myanmar. Myanmar, or Burma, as it’s also known, was under exceedingly tight military rule back then, but Americans could, for reasons I didn’t try to understand, cross the border without a prearranged visa, provided they stayed less than fourteen days and did not travel beyond eastern Shan State. Since I had just a couple of days free, and wanted only to see the unusual and fascinating hill tribes of the Golden Triangle, the famously lawless opium-and-gun-smuggling region, these were hardly onerous restrictions.

Most people would rather convince themselves of being in love than of being happy, just as most people would rather believe they are talking to others when talking to themselves.”  –Sarah Manguso

 

Marfa 2012This story will end with two women naked in a bathtub. Let’s say that, for now, it begins with a drive to Marfa, Texas. I was with one of my best and longest-time friends, Kaitlyn, on our way to spend an annual weekend getaway there. As Dallas faded into a haze in the rearview mirror, we half-joked that this time we were going to Marfa to find ourselves, our “center.” What we meant was that we were looking for some kind of fulfillment or self-sufficiency—maybe happiness is the word—but the joke was that, in reality, we would have preferred to bring our boyfriends with us…except that we didn’t have any. “Finding ourselves,” whatever that meant, would just have to serve as a consolation prize.

Spring Break, 2007, I journey to the wilds of New Mexico to write, drink red wine, and to eat green chili stew and sopapillas. This is back in the days when all I write is raw and repetitive and full of bad metaphors (today, I eschew metaphor). Through Craigslist I find a round adobe house in Abiquiu, near Georgia O’Keefe’s home, close to the icy waters of the Chama River.

The car is packed—a dozen bottles of red wine, a ream of heavy-duty paper, my vintage typewriter—ready for the long drive from Carpinteria to Abiquiu, by way of the Grand Canyon. I teach junior high in Santa Barbara, thoroughly unsuited to the task, my irony useless against the hormonally-driven wiles of my students. I need an escape.

“We, too, have run about the slopes and we’ve ran into the night.  We’ve wandered far beneath the stars since auld lange syne.”

– Benji Schneider, Lord Huron, “Auld Lang Syne”

 

There’s a Fleet Foxes song that starts, “Now that I’m older, than my mother and father when they had their daughter, what does that say about me?”  It catches me off guard every time it shuffles up on my iPod.  I’m a year older than my mother was when I was born.  My parents married after college.  They saved for a brick house where they planted a pear tree and a vegetable garden.  There’s a photo of us, taken shortly after Mom’s twenty-sixth birthday: Mom, Dad, and me sitting in a pile of leaves.  I’m propped between them with a white lace bonnet tied beneath my chin.  We look like a postcard family: haloed by late autumn sun and framed by leaves.  Within months of that photograph, I learned to loosen my bonnet.  I’d fling it from my head, shouting “No bonnet” with a gummy smile.  I wiggled away from the postcard image.  But my parents remain tied together.  Mom and Dad still rake leaves in the early fall, wearing faded sweatshirts and soft jeans.  By their mid-twenties my parents saw the shape their life would take.

For the last few years I’ve scratched a meager living as a travel writer. If that conjures images of five-star luxury and all expenses paid cruises around the Baltic, then I apologize. The reality was more like a cut-price buffet at a roach-infested diner, squatting in the ass-end of nowhere. While there have been perks – lots of travel, a few unexpected adventures, some truly global friendships – there were plenty of bad times too. It turns out that travel writers dress like bums for a reason. Those guys you see scrawling on scraps of card at the side of the road aren’t begging for small change – they’re on assignment for National Geographic.

On the first day of 2006, I left my bad luck tied to a tree outside a famous shrine in Tokyo.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting rid of, only that when my new friend, Ema, unrolled the tiny fortune and read it, she giggled nervously and said in accented English, “You unlucky this year,” then she pinched the corner of the paper between her thumb and index finger, waved it back and forth and said, “Is very bad, you leave it here.”

How come you’ve got children?

How do you mean?

 

Well, if you’re set on being an English travel writer in the high style, what you clearly don’t do – like Patrick Leigh Fermor, Freya Stark or Colin Thubron – is have children. You’ve got two, I see from your biography.

And a dog.  I suppose travel’s become such a commonplace that we naturally fit it into our lives rather than make it its glorious focus, which might fairly describe, say, Freya Stark’s approach.  You’re right that it makes a difference, one that’s largely to do with compromise; while preparing my latest book, Meander, a lot of negotiation was involved before I felt I had my family’s blessing to travel for a full month at a time when my girls were just 7 and 11. The question is whether the book would have better one if I had travelled without such time constraints.

 

Trowel was a Turkish word I didn’t know, so I improvised. Hardly had I requested a pocket-sized spade, however, before the ironmonger’s eyes were narrowing to wary slits. It had not crossed my mind that laying my hands on a trowel might present a problem in a place like Dinar. How but with trowels had the chillies, peppers and aubergines that ran amok in the scruffy little town’s kitchen gardens been planted? What of the geraniums that bloomed in rusty cooking oil tins at the foot of whitewashed walls? The potted pine saplings that stood in long rows at the state railway’s nursery opposite the station? And the apple and cherry orchards that blossomed across the springtime plains west of the town? Dinar was where Turkey’s fertile western lowlands, liberally watered by the Meander’s springs, ran up against the plateau interior to breed a last-ditch growing fervour among the locals – but one that their ironmonger did not appear to share.

Land. Ho.

You awake to the command to sit upright. We’re going down.

You realize landing. Fine. But something’s not right. You’ve been dreaming. You were at home in bed, surrounded by hundreds of strangers in sleep masks snoring from various corners of your bedroom. You were comfortable with it.

Recently I traveled to Peru to research my next novel.   Peru rattled me, although I am not a nervous traveler.   When I was thirteen, I made the trip from Manila to Boston, including a required overnight stay in Los Angeles, by myself.  There was hitchhiking in Italy in my college years and other bold and ridiculous travel adventures; once I landed in Ravenna with no money and had to work two days at a communist beer festival to make train fare back to Florence.  I drove through the Texas Panhandle in an ice storm and had to sleep in a church.  I’ve negotiated public transport in Bangkok, often alone, and somewhat confidently.  In recent years, I waited out officials at the Zimbabwe/Zambia border as they attempted to extort one hundred dollars—something I would have given them, but which I didn’t have since, as I explained to them several times, only a stupid woman would travel alone and with lots of cash. I didn’t sweat it.  I had time, and I survived through those moments composed and sustained by the notion that, at some juncture, this would make a funny story.  But Peru made me nervous not because of danger, nor lack of money, nor corruption, nor alien culture, but because of language.  Peru made me nervous because of Spanish.  Spanish makes me nervous because I can’t speak it.  More clearly (not speaking Thai doesn’t bother me) Spanish makes me nervous because I can’t speak it, and I look like I should.  I call this particular anxiety “The Spanish Thing.”

Passage

I write across distances, from the gray waves of the Irish Sea to the blue-green waters of California’s Pacific coastline. More than this, I write across the elapsed seconds, minutes, hours, and years of my life. Only the other day I looked at the sweeping second hand of my watch and thought, how many times in my life has this perfect circle turned its course and marked time’s passage? In that time I’ve lived on two different continents, been married twice, have two children, three college degrees, and fallen in and out of love more times than I can admit. early evening, and across the tops of avocado trees, the spiraling of a red tailed hawk, the scent of the plumeria, grafted from an ancestor’s garden. A new world unfolds.