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“Le Pont des Arts”: The Story Behind the Story

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I wrote the first draft of this story while staying in the same apartment building in Paris where Katherine Mansfield wrote “Feuille d’Album.” The apartment was located on Ile de la Cité a short distance from Pont de l’Archevêché which has become a popular spot for tourists to attach locks declaring their eternal love as described in this story. Le Pont des Arts, a bit further downstream is the original “lock bridge” of the story, which I didn’t actually visit during the course of this trip to Paris.

I made a quick run over to Pont de l’Archevêché while working on this story to get good non-stereotypical-yet-still-French names for my characters. While looking over the locks I found that the vast majority were placed there by foreign tourists. Perhaps more amusing were the large number of apparent same-sex couples represented and a few locks which had three names on them (although my wife pointed out that these were likely parents and child and not, as I had assumed, the locks of a ménage-à-trois).

This piece was read by Terese Svoboda in an early draft and later by Jennifer Vanderbes, Carolyn Eichorn, Connor Holmes, Kate Sanger and Chelsea Wait.

Photo via wikimedia commons.

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“Thy Neighbour’s Goods”: The story behind the story

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Some background on my story, “Thy Neighbour’s Goods” which appears in the Spring 2014 issue of The Southampton Review.

The story began with a conversation with my wife about language. We were discussing the lack of distinction between singular and plural second person in English and I told her that actually the English “you” is plural and the singular second person is the effectively abandoned “Thou.” She had been asking me to write something in the second person, but I was unwilling to go diving into Jay McInerney territory. And it occurred to me that using “thou” for a second-person piece would give me a new take on it.

The only problem was what the story should be about. Then, while reading Raymond Carver’s “Menudo,” I had one of those moments of reading off the page that yield the best ways to be influenced. Carver had written a story about a man who had had an affair with the neighbor’s wife. I found myself imagining what would happen if it the watcher had had the affair with the neighbor rather than the neighbor’s wife. From there, things began to flow. The structure of the story emerged midway through the first draft; I picked up the statue from one of my MFA classmates and Terese Svoboda made the suggestion (glaringly obvious in retrospect), that the goods should be arranged to make the story chronological. A King James Bible I filched from a hotel room while in college helped me in creating the language of the story.

Thanks to Christina Del Rio, Tiffany Knowles, Chelsea Wait and David Weisblatt for workshop commentary on this piece.

Illustration courtesy of wikimedia commons.

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