March 5, 2004

POSTSCRIPT: James Baldwin

A Sunday afternoon. My parents' home in Lake County. Dad sits in his big chair, reading the Sunday newspapers. I am lounging a few feet away, sprawled across the sofa. Dad sighs, then asks, "Are you writing to change the world?" The question startles me so I say, "Huh?" Dad nods toward the newspaper he's holding. "There's a quote here from the writer James Baldwin saying he wrote to 'change the world.'" Now I am more than startled. "So," my Dad continues, "do you write to change the world?" In fact, I am turning red. "No," I reply, and then repeat "no," immediately and emphatically. "Oh," my Father replies and quietly returns to his reading. But the moment and Baldwin's mission stays with me for the remainder of the afternoon, the remainder of the week, and all of these many months and many years that have now passed. Along the way, I ask myself: If I am not trying to change the world, then why the hell am I writing? Now when people ask why I write, I answer: "I write to change the world. I write to make the world a smaller place. I write to remind us what we have in common with one another -- both good and bad."


Post a Comment

<< Home