Friday, February 26, 2010
Maybe you already know Frederick Busch as a reader. He was prolific: 25 books, many literary awards, well-connected, well-reviewed. He was also my teacher at Colgate, starting there the same year we did. He was 25 in 1966, his novels and story collections ahead of him. So he led the way both by wisdom and by example. And he and his wife Judy became family. We babysat for them as students. Afterwards, we kept in touch, writing, getting together at class reunions, or when Fred was on a book tour, and once, in 2003, about ten of us for dinner in New York.
Last Tuesday marked four years since Fred died of a heart attack in New York, age 64. Four years used to be a considerable chunk of time. All of high school. All of college. Now it's just the recent past. I remember we were buying a car that week, and how sad and heavy it was to go through the minutiae of life. Somehow we accommodated ourselves to that impossible news, and then not quite a year later to the news of Judy's death from a brain tumor.
I wrote this four years ago:
Here are some ideas I have learned through the luck of having Fred Busch as my teacher of writing. This writing business is serious. It matters. It’s also hard, and if you’re honest, you can’t fool yourself into thinking it’s easy. It requires work, and often pain. The payoff is reaching something hard to get to, and believing you can get there again. These lessons (not always put into practice by the student) required a stern, kind, wry, encouraging, passionate, hard-ass, and only slightly older wizard to summon the fire.
So you carry the wizard along with you, and that way you keep the fire going.