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Personal Aspects of the Writing Life

Many years ago before I proclaimed myself to be a writer, I worked for a mortgage banking company in Boston – our offices were on the top floor of what had been a grainery in Faneuil Hall, across the street from the Sanborn Fish Market. My boss was a sailor and the office was decorated with ships’ clocks, Spode china, and models of Boston whalers.  I was hired on the basis of my prior position as an editor of economics and business textbooks at what was then Houghton Miffllin.  Initially I was in charge of writing offering memoranda for potential lenders (banks, pension funds, insurance companies and the like).

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The Leather Funnel

Listening to NPR on my car radio last night, the commentator interviewed an editor who had put together an anthology of the best horror short stories. The program was of course timed to Halloween, which is looming and will be upon us shortly.

The story that was chosen as the standout was “The Leather Funnel,” by Arthur Conan Doyle, who was by the time he wrote this pretty sick and tired of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, or at a minimum needed a palate cleanser before chewing on his next case.

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Amazon and My Mother

My mother was a Luddite. She grew up in the days when you went into a bank and were ushered into a private room where a personal banker fetched your money, took your deposit and knew the names of your children – my sister and I used to accompany her on these missions. I remember there was a doorman. Even when that bank closed its branch and she had to transfer to a bank that was acquired by a bigger bank, she refused to learn her PIN number and chose to wait on line rather than use the ATM.

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The Origin Story

My mother used to tell me, “I haven’t had a happy life, but I’ve had a fascinating one.” She was a trained opera singer, who left the stage for motherhood and banishment to the suburbs to raise two daughters.  Eventually she migrated back to New York City, took courses in pre-Columbian art, and built an extensive collection of more than 100 pieces.  My mother never did anything by halves.

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