But I’ve liked Stephen King on the page. And I still relish the memory of a novel by Joyce Carole\ Oates. I’m not into gratitude, but when it comes to writers, I have often been uncharacteristically thankful. I spent most of a year in high school being thankful to Edward Albee for “The Zoo Story.” I read that play on a rainy afternoon, and I wasn’t bored anymore, nor was I lonely. It may even have stopped raining.
Once, when I had a fever, I dreamt that I sat beside Albee on the train to Manhattan. The Hudson line. We didn’t speak until we reached the terminal and I stood up to take down my suitcase. Then I told Edward Albee how much I loved his play. The dream still lives in my head. One of us was wearing a blue, button-down shirt. A Brooks Brother’s blue, the shirt distinguished by the absence of the pocket.
At boarding school, I used to wake up fifteen minutes early, so as to devote fifteen minutes to “Walden”. “Walden” was heavy sledding. But Walden gave me a chorus I yearned to sing along with. Walden articulated the love affair I was having with the out of doors. And no, I never imagined meeting Hank on a train. I did once go to the front of the car on a train from Windsor, Connecticut to Grand Central Terminal and read from “Walden” to passengers who were at first annoyed and then bored by my messianic excess. ‘Walden” tantalized me with the prospects of ethical certainty. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”