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2006-10-03 - 9:00 p.m.

Stephen King's on his fortieth book? How do people write, say, ten books? They're made of more prolific stuff than me, or more imaginative, or more restless, because writing one is not so easy. This Jonathan Safran Foer, on the other hand, turns out to be the real deal. Just finished "Everything Is Illuminated" and, though it's a little gimmicky with the self-awareness and the different little modes of narration, fact is it's got real stuff at its heart and is just crazily inventive. He's the kind of guy you'd like to get into an email relationship with. I'd like, for example, for him to tell me what he thinks of the line to get your driver's license renewed. Or of the World Cup. Or my supermarket.

Writing's hard, is what I'm trying to say, and when I see something so inventive and good I appreciate it all the more because I know how hard it is to get a story down on paper that reads like a popped-out whole, with truth at its center that moves and gives chills on the last page. Writing's hard going right now. I want to say something big and true but all I can manage, it seems, is little and kinda true. Fact is, I've got to do better. And do it more often. Sometimes I feel like I want to go straight to the heart of it, whatever it is--my life, I guess, being alive, loving a girl, second-guessing love, hoping, dreaming, fearing--but don't know how. I keep thinking about what The Safran Foer says in his thank-yous at the beginning of the novel, dedicated to someone, that the best advice he got always boiled down to "feel more." Because what are we after if not chills of recognition?

But my job pays me and it allowed me to go to Ireland. I'm racing to write a bunch of journal stuff about it before the details vanish, but I've got some general impressions.

Ireland's drunk and green, so green it hurts your eyes, and smirky and so old I feel like I'm barely here. I talked with people who love America and are very wary of it and also immigrant restaurant kids from all over Europe and so much with my girlfriend that we know each other much better now, what we're like when we're really tired and when we're really hungry and when we're blown away by mountains and clouds and by each other, too.

Trying to finish an essay about a family vacation we took when I was about eight when I figured out what cancer really was and also must grade a bunch of papers by tomorrow at 7 p.m. It's always a mad rush. I should develop better work habits. Looks like the university will let me teach an introduction to fiction workshop in the spring. This makes me happy.

It is warm here. The leaves are changing colors. Sometimes I wish I ran on gasoline and that if I could, I'd fill myself up with something you can't get anywhere, like 95 octane.

In Ireland, I met a guy whose brother dated Badly Drawn Boy's sister. Or tried to. It was late and we were at an after-hours dance club that played a polka version of "Ring of Fire." He's from near Manchester. On his fifth or seventh or tenth Guinness, he was telling a story about something being in his "brinn." I asked him what a "brinn" was. He said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I meant BRAIINNN. In my BRAIN. Is that better?" And, later, he put his hand in his jacket pocket and said to my girlfriend, "What do you think I have in my pocket?" And I said, before she could say anything, "Two condoms that won't get used tonight?" I think that was when he decided to be my friend.

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