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Letters & Essays: J-L

Letters & Essays of the Day

If You Are Permanently Lost

By Molly McCully Brown

I never have any idea where I am. I lived my whole childhood in the purple foothills of the same five-square-mile town and I still couldn’t tell you whether you turn left or right on the single thruway to get to the grade school or the grocery store, or how to find the houses of any of my childhood friends. I can’t tell you how to find the conspicuously modern angles of the apartment building in the small Mississippi town where I lived for three years in graduate school, or even easily direct you from my old house in Austin to the bright little bar where I wrote much of my first book. I never know how far I am from the airport or the highway. I can’t read a map effectively, and even though it’s less than half a mile from my current apartment in London, I couldn’t get to the Thames without the artificial voice on my cell phone—set to an Australian accent so its omnipresence is less tiresome—­calling out turn left every 250 feet. Half the time, to remember which way is left, I have to imagine for an instant that I am picking up a pen.

Guerre de Plume

By Laura (Riding) Jackson

The passage in the interview with Stephen Spender published in your issue no. 77 in which Mr. Spender played about with a reference made by W.B. Yeats to Laura Riding, in a talk presumably witnessed by Mr. Spender, came to my attention when I was in the midst of composing a chapter for a book of memoirs, the chapter having the title “Importance.” The reference to myself exhibits an attitude to me as one who is an item of literary mention outside the bounds of the Important Mentions but useful as something of a flourish of special sophistication. Literary interviews bring out this particular worst—addiction to strategic mentions—of the literary—world worsts.

Madame, I’m Quite Drunk

By William Jovanovich

Over the last three decades of his life Erich Maria Remarque lived in the town of Ascona on Lago Maggiore. His house and the gardens below it were on a hillside between the lake and a narrow road cut into the mountain slope that runs southeast from Locarno. Inside the rather small building was a prodigious collection of Pisarro and Picasso, Monet and Manet, gold-leaf Venetian commodes and other seventeenth-century artifacts-so many objects, with so few available spaces left, that a Cezanne hung in the downstairs "powder room" and on the living-room floor were late medieval tapestries stacked like rugs.