Leaving home is perhaps the central experience of the writer's life regardless of whether he or she ever returns. In a broader sense, being out of the society of home provides the remove at which the writer must live in order to see, in order to write. It is this enigma that informs the writer's perspective—the restless pursuit of a way back while remaining steadfastly at a distance.
I was not familiar with the name Lynn Freed when I plucked her memoir off the new book cart Monday evening, but how could I resist one entitled Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home,especially when it's subtitled Life on the Page? Even more especially when it's short enough to finish in an evening and can be squeezed ahead of the longer books I have in progress.
I took more time getting through it than that, though, managing not to finish until we were at the chiropractor's office yesterday morning, and then I snatched up two more of her novels and her story collection when I went in to work last night. Freed may well be the best discovery I make this year.
She grew up in South Africa, youngest daughter to parents involved in the theater, and came to the U.S. as a high school exchange student. She attended grad school in New York and has worked both as a travel agent and as a creative writing instructor. Most of her fiction is set in Africa, and features characters much like her those in her own family. Her essay on teaching writing in various MFA programs in the U.S., "Doing Time," detailing the compromises necessary to leave both students and instructor "morally intact" when the chances are that none of the stories written are worth the efforts to improve them, is not for the fainthearted.
If it weren't for the fact that The Amalgamation Polka is in transit to me from the public library, and that I have too many other books already underway, I'd be diving straight into Home Ground, Freed's second novel and the one most discussed in her memoir. I'm hoping for lots of uninterrrupted time next week while I'm at work since students will be on spring break.