Tags: austin

Young Mrs. Clarke

Paris-Austin in the 20th Century

I first read Ernest Hemingway's wonderful memoir A MOVEABLE FEAST when I was in my late teens and fell under the spell of the idea of that place (Paris) and time (1920s) and, above all, of the image of that type of bohemiam literary/artistic life-style and world. I remember living in Austin in the 1970s, when I was in my early twenties, and that was MY version of Hemingway's Paris. (And not just because Howard Waldrop used to greet my boyfriend and me when we arrived at a gathering with loud, glad cries of: "Scott! Zelda!!") This all came back to me in a rush a few nights ago in Aviles (Spain) where I was attending the first Celsius 232 festival (an offshoot of the long-running Semana Negra in nearby Gijon) -- earlier, I'd been on a panel with George R.R. Martin, discussing how we came to write WINDHAVEN (recently published in a new Spanish edition as REFUGIO DEL VIENTO), and in the evening a young woman came up to me, eyes shining, to say how exciting it had been to hear me talking about the 1970s, and being a writer then, and had it been hard to be a woman writing science fiction back then? And I saw that for her, the 1970s were as distant and magical as the 1920s had seemed to me when I was her age...

Of course. It seemed strange to me, but it is not. In some ways, my years in Austin feel like they're just around the corner, as if I could easily go back and reconnect. (Although, when I do go back, I can't help noticing all the differences.) In other ways, I'm well aware that it was a different world in the 1970s.

Hemingway was only a couple of years older than I am now when he committed suicide. I think he felt everything he had been, everything that mattered to him, was gone. I don't feel that at all. But then my generation seems to be refusing to get old -- at least, in the old-fashioned way.