by Charles Johnson
. . . On November 11, 1991, I had the privilege and pleasure of reading with Marshall at the Poetry Center in NYC. I felt it was an honor because I’d long been an admirer of her novel Brown Girl, Brownstones, published in 1959 when I was 11 years old. She was unpretentious and down to earth. A woman of character and common sense. A wise elder I felt I could trust . . .
That night in 1991, we chatted backstage before our reading, and something Marshall said has always stuck with me because of its simple truth. It’s a truth known to just about every writer, but perhaps not to enough readers—certainly not to readers who see writers as celebrities with glamorous lives—and it must have been on her mind that evening before we stepped on stage. Our work, she said, never happens in social isolation. Rather, the books we labor on for so long and so hard are created amid a welter of all our other quotidian duties, responsibilities and challenges as parents, spouses, and caregivers, with no time out from the exigencies of grading papers if we’re teachers, paying bills, fixing dinner, home and automobile repair, grocery shopping, taking out the recycling bins, going to the dry cleaners, check-ups with the doctor, and a hundred other chores. Doing literary art, I heard her suggesting—or at least this was my take-away from our conversation—was always just one task among many and all required our care and mindful attention.
Read the full piece by Dr. Charles Johnson, Seattle author, philosopher, professor, and National Book Award winner. Then you should treat yourself to Night Hawks. Here’s what Elliott Bay Book Company had to say about Johnson’s most recent short story collection:
“There is a deep assurance and confidence here in these stories of varying genre and setting, even as there is an artistic humility also evident. The title story, a narrative centering on his nocturnal conversations with the late August Wilson, is alone worth the price of the book.”