Writer of the Month
Robert James Waller
American author, photographer and musician Robert James Waller was born in Charles City, Iowa on August 1, 1939. He is best known for his 1993 novella The Bridges of Madison County, a story about a housewife living on an Iowa farm who meets and has an affair with a photographer working there while her husband and children are at a state fair. The story was well-received, praised for its honest and compelling capture of reality. Waller conceived the idea when he had been taking photographs of bridges in Madison County, Iowa while on leave from his job as a professor at the University of Northern Iowa. He modeled the character Francesca after his wife, Georgia, who had been with him.
He also wrote an acclaimed collection of essays and stories entitled Just Beyond the Firelight in which he told stories of people he had known, his days as a college basketball player, a chance meeting with Charles Kuralt, and a canoe trip. The following excerpt details a memory of his daughter-- or rather, a memory of her memory.
"Farther into the room salvage appears: the hammer that disappeared years
ago; about six bucks in change; fifty percent of the family’s towel and drinking glass stock; five sets of keys to the Toyota. More. Good stuff. We work with a vengeance.
Moving down through the layers, though, we begin to undergo a
Slowly, we change from rough-and-tumble scavengers to gentle archaeologists.
Perhaps it started when we reached the level of the dolls and stuffed animals.
Maybe it was when I found “The Man Who Never Washed His Dishes,” a morality play in a dozen or so pages, with her childhood scribblings in it.
In any case, tough-mindedness has turned to drippy sentimentality by the
time we find the tack and one shoe from Bill, her horse.
I had demanded that Bill be sold when he was left unridden after the five
years of an intense love affair with him were over. That was hard on her, I know.
I begin to understand just how hard when Georgia discovers a bottle of horsefly repellent that [Rachael] kept for her memories.
We hold up treasures and call to each other. “Look at this, do you
She smiles out at us from a homecoming picture, the night of her first real
date. Thousands of rocks and seashells. The little weaving loom on which she
fashioned pot holders for entire neighborhoods. My resolve is completely gone as I rescue Snoopy’s pennant from the flapping jaws of a trash bag and set it to one side for keeping...
Order has replaced life. I sit quietly there and hear the laughter, the crying,
the reverberation of a million phone calls. The angst of her early-teen existential crisis lingers, drifting in a small cloud near the high ceiling.
And you know what I miss? Coming home and hearing her say, “Looking
pretty good, Bob! Got your suspenders on?” She could make a whirring sound
just like the motor drive on a fine camera.
Those few moments of irreverent hassle every day are what I miss most of all.
Regrets? A few. I wish I had walked in the woods more with her. I wish I had
gotten mad less and laughed longer. Maybe we could have kept the horse another year.
by Sophie Dalton
You grabbed the sparkling object off of the platter. As you handed the Dominican pesos to the cashier, I wish I was able to see your smile. You knew that I would love it. And when a ping went off on my phone, I saw that it was you. Look what I got you was sent with flirtatious emojis conveying your excitement. Finally, when the sparkly object was flown to LaGuardia in its brown paper bag, packed gently into your suitcase, and later into my hands, the abundance of words weren't needed. Smiling as I tried it on, I knew.