Our letters home offer a detailed record of our travels around the world. They connect times and dates with location and give details we have long forgotten. But to choose something to write about from all of this information is not easy: there’s too much there. To bring the material forward and make it relative now is even more difficult. Maybe that’s why the letters remain in their box.
And the enigma why I haven’t touched the letters may lie in part in the process I use. This may explain it. But I find it remarkable that I haven’t been more straightforward and haven’t always acknowledged my models such as Joyce and Woofe. I find it equally remarkable that I haven’t found a model to help me utilize my letters. I don’t think I’ve read enough; but I would first have to make up my mind whether I wanted to cast the letters in fiction or non-fiction. The details would be the same in either case, so why would it matter? People, places, and things: that wouldn’t change. The rest would have to come from my imagination, for the letters only provide details and not the story.
James Joyce in the short stories of his DUBLINERS seems to have selected detail very carefully; and he didn’t tell everything. With our letters, the days they represented on the days we found time to write them, we gave as much detail as possible; we tried to tell everything. I am afraid there is too much there. And I don’t have (as Joyce did with Dublin) the personal connection with these places. Over there I was an outsider and would’ve always remained one. There was little over there that I could claim; whereas it’s hard to divorce me from my hometown. When I think of Irving Texas and at the same time have thoughts of Bombay, I have a more passionate (even tempestuous) response to thoughts of where I grew up.