Killer Whales: My sister and nephew, Sarah and Nikolai, are home for the summer, and I took the girls up to Whidbey Island to hang with them at the parents house and for swim lessons at Ft. Casey. At seven a.m. Sarah rousts everyone outside because she spotted whales breeching. Ava, Gia, Kaya, Nikolai and I rushed down in time to see three huffing and puffing, jumping and splashing. Sarah and I were busy grabbing cameras.
Unfortunately, Sarah used my father’s camera, which had been set to night speed, and none of her pictures came out. I failed to a great picture air, but at least I got one, poor as it is. As they passed I ended up in the kayak trying to follow, but I could never close the gap and eventually returned. My parents bought our house in 1972, and in all our years we have seen deer, seal, otter, eagles, but never whales.
Children vs. Art: Alice Walker, when asked whether writers should have children, said, “They should have children—assuming this is of interest to them—but only one.” In our forthcoming book, I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, David Shields and I discuss parenting. Specifically, having children, how many, and how this can detract or enhance the literary career. I have three children, David has one.
Zadie Smith vs. Lauren Sandler: The Walker quote comes from an article Lauren Sandler wrote at The Atlantic: “The Secret to Being Both a Successful Writer and a Mother: Have Just One Kid.” British author Zadie Smith countered in The Guardian with, “I have two children. Dickens had 10 – I think Tolstoy did, too. Did anyone for one moment worry that those men were becoming too fatherish to be writeresque? Does the fact that Heidi Julavits, Nikita Lalwani, Nicole Krauss, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vendela Vida, Curtis Sittenfeld, Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison and so on and so forth (I could really go on all day with that list) have multiple children make them lesser writers?”
Myself? Despite my glaring lack of a literary C.V., I think you can have both.