When you are shy like this, you feel a million miles away from anything, from everything, and you want to come closer, but cannot bear to bring yourself in; and of course, part of you does not want to come in—but also when you are a million miles out, you can see things, and you’re free just to stand there and watch, and things that are sometimes ordinary seem to you, to your shy little mind, in the outback, the last outpost, pretty and special. They are ordinary to everyone else, but to your never-experienced-any-of-these-things little mind, they’re beautiful, and you feel like falling over on your back, upturned, like a turtle.
When you’re shy, and a writer, it’s not the same as being just, say, shy and a mechanic, or shy and a typist: I mean, people know you’re watching them. It’s like you’ve lost all your privacy—you can’t even stand in a crowd and be quiet and watch things, because they know what you’re up to—and then if that crowd happens to be other writers, well, that’s the worst, it’s just the absolute worst.
Am I the last to know about Narrative Magazine? Registration is free, and in addition to the Rick Bass essay in the current issue, you can find works by Tobias Wolff and Jane Smiley and Joyce Carol Oates in the archives.