September 13th, 2007

  • lizhand

Darkness visible

While writing Generation Loss, I did some research into serial killers, and read some texts and monographs used in criminal justice and forensics programs. The upshot, for me, was that i don't have a strong enough mind or stomach for this sort of thing. The gory parts are horrific enough, but the mindset of a compulsive murderer is so terrible and so alien — it's like that famous study that points out the impossibility of trying to understand a bat's consciousness.
  • lizhand

Lost Pages, or The Little Black Book: 1

Lost Pages

In September 1999 I was with my two small children, visiting my parents at my childhood home in Pound Ridge. It was a few months after my novel Black Light had been published.

The phone rang and I answered, and an unfamiliar male voice asked, “Is this Elizabeth Hand?” I said it was, and the guy went on. I didn’t recognize his name, but within a few momnents I knew exactly who he was. Years earlier -- April 20, 1976 — I had been in New York, briefly home from college and hitchhiking to Peekskill with my high school friend Katie, when a guy picked us up. We rode around with him for a few hours, and then he dropped us off. It was only later that night, back at home (how did I get back to Pound Ridge? I have no clue) when the phone rang that I realized I’d left something in his car.

The guy had called to say he’d found my black book, which had my phone number written in it.

My black book! How could I have forgotten it? It was my notebook, though not my first one — the first one, started while I was still in high school, contained my earliest Kamensic stories and notes. It had disappeared a few weeks into my freshman year — stolen, some of my friends thought, by a disgruntled roommate. I still mourn the loss of that book (which was brown not black), but back in 1999 I’d almost forgotten about the second one, which I’d started in October 1975 as its replacement.

The guy, who I'll call R, never sent the book back in 1976. No hard feelings on my part — as I said, I'd all but forgotten about it. But now, more than twenty years later, he’d seen a copy of Black Light, bought it and read it — and, improbable as this seems, had recognized me, as well as some of the characters and places recorded in that journal, which he still had. He dug it up again, reread it, found my number — my parents’ number — and called me.

And, improbable as it seems — I got home to Pound Ridge maybe once a year, if that — I’d answered the phone. We talked, amazed by the coincidence (I was really flabbergasted); he got my address in Maine and, a week later, my long-lost book arrived, along with a small sculpture of a frog — he’d become a sculptor. There were two letters in the book, one written by him the same day he’d picked us up hitchhiking, the other penned in 1999 (this was still pre-email days).

So this is all a preamble to say that I’m going to post some of this stuff. Since getting the black book again in 1999, I haven’t been able to bear reading it -- it felt too raw and too mortifying to see myself that young and unformed as a writer. I only kept the journal for a few months - I’ve never been able to keep a diary.

Today I started reading it. There’s no great revelations there, and NOTHING about current events -- I was 18 and (for the record, folks!) vaguely cognizant of the world outside my head, though not compelled to write about it. But the pages are a record of someone struggling to become a writer, someone who, at points, looked ahead and wrote wondering if her “old” self (i.e., me, now, at 50) would ever reread those pages and recognize the girl writing in them. It seems faintly miraculous to me that the book survived and was returned, but the greater miracle -- maybe the great miracle of my life — is that I did in fact become a working writer, and left these pages on the trail behind me.
  • lizhand

Massive Book Sale!

Step right up, folks — and no pushing!

Massive book sale from noted author Jeff VanderMeer and Weird Tales fiction editor Ann VanderMeer, from nonfiction to coffee table books, fiction to graphic novels, oddities to rarities—and everything in between. Whatever kind of book you’re into, chances are they’ll have it. Mainstream, genre, alternative, pop culture—it’s all here. Help Jeff and Ann give these books a good home, and get a good deal for yourself.
  • lizhand

Lost Pages, or The Little Black Book: 2

LOST PAGES 1: The Past is Prologue

These are the two letters that came when the black book was returned to me in 1999, both written by the guy I’ll call Bobby Blessed — the only written correspondence I’ve had with him. I have edited the second letter (1976) , omitting some personal details relating to Bobby; otherwise these are unaltered. My own journal entries will follow.


Dear Elizabeth,

Here I am again writing to you half my life later. Has it really been 23 years? I don't feel that much older but the calendar doesn’t lie. Reading your Journal again brought back so many memories of that time so long ago. All the empty pages make me think of how different our lives may have been, but at that time we had no clue as to what we didn't;t know then. God we were so young, our whole lies ahead of us! Untouched by what years of living will do to a person.

Skip ahead (back to the future) to 1999. I live in xxx, xx and I do sculpture. I’m single, I find that this gives me more time for creative pursuits, which I love. I am sending you a small sculpture of a frog because I want to give something back to you for keeping your Journal all these years. Plus I think you will like her!

Time is of the essence these days. I’m back to work now. I’m so glad to be able to give you back something you lost such a long long time ago. I hope this incident will inspire you to write a great story, in fact I know it will! Take care and I’m very happy for your success! That was evident when you were 19 and so unsure of yourself! I hope to hear from you, but please not in 23 years!

Love, Peace and Happiness

Bobby Blessed

PS May your Pen never run dry!

April 20, 1976

Hello? How did I get in here? Oh now I remember I picked up these two chicks hitching a ride to Peekskill. They were friendly, and grateful for my hospitality, which they countered with a few good swigs from a pint of blackberry brandy, hidden in a brown paper bag. Thoughts of New York City. "Collapse )
  • lizhand

Lost Pages, or The Little Black Book: 3

[[Note: This will run as a serial until I reach the end. All names have been changed. Notes indicated with an * are found in the Comments section.]]

The Little Black Book: 10 November 1975

Book Two is dedicated with all love,
respect, and thanks to Simon, because Book One
should have been dedicated to him
but it got lost, didn’t it? Also in eternal
memory of the immortal and wondrous

Balloon Bob*, and the real Kamensic Village* —

this overlong first page is offered; and all the rest, too.
Monday, November 10, 1975

This may end up being the Balloon Bob Book, but I can never know for sure if it will be or not. The definitive volume on Balloon Bob has yet to be compiled, but it may be that this will be the notebook for it. Time will tell.

I wrote once before that empty books are magical things — quite like the new year, only January 1 depresses me, and new books of blank pages do not. Here I am, blank book before me ... where will this one take me? The last one saw the chronicling of Eric Henvry* and Vera Iratti’s* suicide, and the creation of Kamensic Village, sandwiched between the slices of non-fictitious fact that were my thoughts as me, Elizabeth. I had no idea on page one what was in store for me 40 pages onwards: strange to find at some points that I had written myself into my own story. Or else, that the story had started to work itself into “real life.”

So now I am half-way down this first page — funny how first pages are so important. Someday, someone may read this and wonder about the girl who wrote it. I will be old then, like all of the people I wheeled and fed and diapered in the nursing home [[Somers Manor, where I worked as a nurse’s aide while in high school]]. Will anyone be able to believe that I was once young, and people loved me without a sense of obligation, and I had dreams of becoming a writer? ... "Collapse )