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Dispatch from Truro
I’ve been in a beautiful place the past week or so. Every time I try to write something about where I am I think of all the possible misconstruals of it. Or that maybe from a certain perspective it could all be seen to be true.
\\\\\\\\\ This last was typed by Myshka, who is with us on the Cape, otherwise known as Cape Cod–specifically in Truro. We can’t let her outside because of the mangy, starved-looking coyotes, who now trot up to the screen door in full daylight to nab chipmunks off the patio. Patio, deck, porch–which sounds least like I am John Cheever? Or I mean a minor character in a John Cheever story. When I was a child my brother and mother and I spent three solid months of every year here in Truro (the warm months) while my father worked in the city (New York City, that is) and came up on weekends. Now I strive to get my children here for longer and longer blocks so they can feel the kind of loose falling-away of time and shoes and other constraints that we felt. Closest thing to magic that I know.
When I started Fence I lived on Lower Fifth Avenue, a very expensive address. It so happened that my parents run a mom-and-pop property management business in New York City, and they obtained a rent-stabilized apartment in the building for me, all quite legal but still totally enviable and, more to the point of this post, completely misleading to the scores of people I had over for parties in those first few frenzied years of literary publishing. Everyone assumed I owned the apartment, which would have made me pretty much a millionaire, and when I explained to them why I lived in the apartment they usually misunderstood me to be saying that my parents owned the building, as opposed to managing the building. Management means that you are the ones that get the call when the elevator breaks.
Owning has historically been more the norm for those who start literary journals, and small presses. It is not uncommon for there to be a “publisher”–someone with significant reserves of family money–in place making the continued publication of new numbers of this or that journal possible. This has never been the case with Fence, though in the first years I was able to attract a few patrons. Attract and then repel, I guess, as they all fell away, and now Fence is run almost entirely on grants and actual revenue, and with the kind sponsorship of the University at Albany. I have a certain unuseful attitude toward those who might donate money to Fence, which is that I feel they should do it because they think that Fence is worthy of supporting, and are aware that they have money to give, and not because they are hoping to get something back, however ineffable that thing might be. It becomes a whole other job, jollying donors. I wish I had a subscription to Donor Magazine, or whatever is the name of the official journal in which philanthropists discuss current issues in philanthropy. That way I could find out what is the other side of this story.
Meanwhile, and perhaps unconnectedly, except with respect to this blog, I feel defensive about the fact that my parents built a very small house in Truro in 1965, in the middle of the woods (smart of them, as the beach-houses are being swallowed by the ocean).