I confess: I’ve never read anything by Bernard Malamud. It’s very possible that I’ll correct this state of things in a near future – but let me tell you a story first.
Years ago – possibly a dozen – I wrote down a quote that said “Stories, stories, stories – to me there is nothing else but stories.” Or something to that effect. I’m quoting from memory, and I’m not sure about the details – but you get the gist. I like the notion very much, and rather share it, and more than once, through the years, I’ve tried to locate the source – but, believe it or not, even the all-encompassing Web was no help…
Then, a few days ago, my friend Milla suggested that I should read Bernard Malamud’s Dubin’s Lives. “It might be very much your kind of thing,” she said. “Or perhaps not quite, but it’s full of thing that should resonate.”
And as she said so, something clicked in my head: Malamud – yes! Here was the author of my Stories-stories quote, at long last! And Milla confirmed that, indeed, the thing stood proudly at the beginning of Cynthia Ozyck’s foreword, together with a paragraph or two of wonderful considerations about writing stories – and even sent me a screen capture from the Italian translation she’d been reading.
Hooray! Armed with that knowledge, I went back to Google – and, once again, Google disappointed me. No amount of searching would yield the original… Again, I was googling from memory, and it dawned on me that I could perhaps do better if I found the exact wording of the beginning. So I dug out the old notebook where the quote is. Or should be.
Now, look: I have a vivid memory of jotting down the one sentence, in pencil, on a page of that particular notebook… Only, it is not there. I’ve gone through the notebook, cover to cover, all of three times. The first time I only searched for notes in pencil, then I tried every page with a single sentence on it, and lastly I reread the whole notebook – just to be sure. And yet there is no Stories – Stories quote in there – no matter how vividly I remember writing it down just there…
Or do I?
I wonder because, as I completed my third pass of the notebook, I realized that I have another, equally vivid memory, of writing down the quote in orange marker. On a post-it note. And pinning it on my cork-board. And it’s not there, either – I know, because I’m sitting in front of it, and it doesn’t take much to read all the notes pinned to a cork-board…
So now I know that it’s my mind playing tricks on me again, making up… well, perhaps not exactly making up things – but certainly dressing up the way they happened. Because I’m still rather sure I did jot down the quote – not so much because I remember doing it (well, yes – I do remember, but…) as because it is the kind of thing I would jot down. Where I scrawled that particular note, though, is a horse of another colour. Having literal heaps of old notebooks, and countless scraps of annotated papers everywhere, I’m not sure I can find this one note again. And let’s be honest: when combined with my failure to locate the quote on the Internet… Is it a story that I see before me?
So, in the end, I’m left with: 1. Further proof that my mind will always choose storyness over reality; 2. A possible new story in the making; 3. A certain number of other ideas, because it is impossible to go through old notebooks (or, in truth, cork-boards) without finding again a few of those; 4. A niggling doubt that the quote might not be from Malamud after all?
On the whole, it could have been worse. Still, if anyone could help me with the quote…?