Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago. Here, Belle Boggs revisits Joy Williams’s novel Breaking and Entering.
In college, I lived in thrall to a professor named Sally Doud, who taught my first fiction workshop classes. Sally—that’s what we called her—was tall and angular, with coarse blonde hair, an unfussy stylishness, and a husky laugh that resounded out of her office, where I went as often as I thought reasonable. The office was tiny—smaller than any of my other professors’ offices—and windowless, with off-white cinder-block walls. It may well have been a closet before Sally wedged her desk inside. There was a vent with a fan, and she would blow cigarette smoke so carefully in the direction of the fan that the fire alarm never went off.
I probably went to Sally’s office more than was reasonable—I thought that once every two weeks was okay—because her office was the place where I most believed that I could one day become a writer, and because I loved every book she recommended. She introduced me to Andrea Barrett and Ron Hansen and Jayne Anne Phillips, and would often pass along Vintage paperbacks that I hope I returned. I know there is at least one I did not return, because I still have it. The familiar white cover shows an unsmiling blonde woman in a blue string bikini, standing behind a stately white dog. She’s opening French doors, just a crack, and in the spotless glass you can see palm trees, a pelican, the beach. The scene is cool and vaguely menacing. Read More