I’m not sure that my mother trusted books, other than the Bible. The only books in our house were those given me by an aunt or an uncle. I handled them with the care due to rare and precious commodities. Although I love secondhand books that earlier readers have underlined meaningful passages, added notes, turned down corners, I’ve never been able to take pen or pencil to a book myself.
Imagine my shock when, after reading a few pages of Richard Powers’s The Time of our Singing, I threw it across the room. I still don’t know why. Envy because Powers writes so beautifully? Because he understands both music and physics in-depth, and how is that possible? Angry because, given my pathological parents, I’m afraid of any mind that’s incomprehensible to me?
I have the same reaction to Steve Mitchell’s work. I don’t throw it; but after one of his readings, we joke about the level of anger I experience – a 10? or merely a 9? When I first encountered his short stories, I told Steve that I didn’t understand his work, that I didn’t know how to dig out the theme that ran through them.
We have long discussions about the influence of memory. I can see that he’s experimenting with time. By the end of a recent story he has gradually collapsed the time between three discrete events until they’ve become entwined in the narrator’s memory. When I asked him the other day what one word he would use to describe his theme he said, “Intimacy. The search for connection, or the lack of it.”
Steve is a man who’s constantly searching for the interesting, the beautiful, some project that seems impossible. He moved his family to a commune where his “children could run through daffodils” and where he was in charge of the cows. He’s now a chef. He has studied with Thich Nhat Hanh and with a Jungian analyst, has written and performed multi-voiced poetry in a sculpture installation, has written and directed plays. He has now found his place in fiction, where the search is never-ending.
Check our Steve’s website: www.thisisstevemitchell.com.