Day 7: “Forgot I gave it away” is more the norm, but I’ll look in the bookcases for a surprise. Thank goodness there will be physical evidence of my absent memory.
Five minutes later: Oh, right. Déjà vu. I’ve been meaning to read Train. Now, I will. Finally. And I’ll stop shelving unread books.
This is the opening paragraph of Train, Pete Dexter’s sixth novel:
At this point in the story, Packard had never fallen in love, and didn’t trust what he’d heard of the lingo (forever, my darling, with all my heart, till the end of time, more than life itself, with every fiber of my being, oh my darling Clementine, etc.). It sounded out of control to him, and messy.
Pete Dexter hasn’t written enough books. I refuse to tear through all eight, because who knows when there will be more? You know the feeling—that clutching, overkeen anticipation you experience only when the author is one of your favorites.
In 2011, Pete Dexter and Pete Hammill discussed their early careers as newspaper journalists. You can read Part I and Part II of their Q&A on the Mullholland Books blog. Both men were drawn to the work for which they’re best suited, and then years of doing the job intensified their essential qualifications for it.
Every ambitious writer is impatient to achieve these two authors’ level of expertise. A few will reach it, after decades of practice, and then understand what the effort took.