At the University of New Hampshire’s Dimond Library, three levels bottomward in the basement are the Milne Special Collections and Archives, area attenuate books, manuscripts, photographs, and added different items are housed. There, too, is a book blue-blooded January’s Dream by John Robinson.
To apprehend this book, you accept to accept an appointment. Once there, the book awaits you on an assigned table area you go afterwards stowing your accoutrements and purses in lockers to anticipate any annexation of the attenuate items. January’s Dream shares shelf amplitude with the Robert Frost collection, artisan and musician, Amy Beach’s collection, a archetype of the Gregorian Chants, and from 1961, Betty Hill’s dress she wore on the night she and husband, Barney, were abducted by aliens.
John Robinson and I accommodated at a bounded Portsmouth, New Hampshire restaurant on a brilliant morning to allocution about his writing. He awaits me in a berth with his coffee and biscuit raisin toast. I adjustment the same, and we activate our chat about his activity as a writer. He pulls several books from a arid covering attache and easily them to me. These books are who he is as a writer. They are arcane journals.
Born and aloft in Chicago, Illinois, in 1972, he confused to Edinburgh, Scotland, with his new wife to assignment on his aboriginal novel. In an April 2012 commodity for The Writer, John talks about what it was like to try and address during that time in a allotment titled, How a Arcane Activity Begins.
John is atrociously honest in the essay. He writes, “I had not accepted this barbarous aggression of self-deprecation. Nor was I able for it. I would leave the bed, cantankerous the algid attic to the bedroom’s abandoned window and beam out over the pitched, corrugated roofs of south Edinburgh, and actively catechism my action and commitment, the childishness of abandonment a tenured teaching job in Chicago to access in Europe to alive on the bare bacon of my wife. I felt—for the aboriginal time—a fraud.”
As acute as it got, he comes abroad with his appropriate positivity back absorption on that time and how it gave him his future. “Yet every day there was acumen to hope, and, afterwards a time, I addled assimilate an idea. I began to use my abreast as a antecedent of inspiration, as a affectation for my affront to become a writer. As I absolved the age-old streets of Edinburgh adversity from crisis and ennui, I would acquaint myself that I belonged to the purest accumulation of writers in the world, the abundant unwashed: abstruse writers. We were the absolute outcasts, the accurate rebels. We had no allies, no fans, no encouragement, and little hope. We did not alike apperceive anniversary other. Yet we marshaled the assumption anniversary day, if not to write, again to accept in the abutting day back we would.”
He tells me, “Even admitting a lot of that amounted to failure, as massive a abortion it was, it wasn’t. It was a massive success. I concluded up at UNH, area I got my master’s. I anguish up autograph all these memoirs about my time in Europe. So abounding of them occurred there.”
To say he is acknowledged would not activate to acquaint the account of this biographer back he refocused his autograph from novels to autograph for arcane journals.
“In the ’70s, I anticipation maybe I should be publishing in arcane journals rather than autograph novels that were activity nowhere, and they booty forever, and you anticipate you’re accident your mind.”
“I absitively why don’t I take, not aloof the abbreviate stories, why don’t I booty a affiliate and advance it into an absolute story, non-fiction, and memoir, and again advertise that. I had the ancestry of something. From the year 2000 to about now, I’ve had 33 or 35 that are out. I boilerplate about three publications a year.”
John Robinson’s bio on Poets & Writers tells us he “is a novelist, playwright, essayist, memoirist, and abbreviate adventure writer. He has contributed political commentary, created award-winning drama, appeared in assorted anthologies, and has been translated into thirty-two languages.”
In the 2 Bridges Review, appear by New York City College of Technology of The City University of New York in 2019, John gives us glimpses of his absolute journeys in a allotment titled, Travels.
He takes us into a alcove in Scotland and makes us feel the affliction still absolute there. He writes, “East Lothian, Scotland. Summer 1973: At Tantallon Castle, I descended into the dungeon. Added than a baby beam aperture casting bare light, the abode was aphotic and algid admitting outside, it was mid-summer. While centuries had anesthetized back the aftermost prisoners were held, the aroma of them remained shackled in the apartment air.”
And then, he shares with us a moment of analysis in July 1971 in Florence, Italy. “We begin an abandoned dress in our auberge allowance with an alien architecture akin the bluff of the Duomo, which was arresting through our window. The dress like those beat by women in the fifteenth century. My wife wore it to banquet that aboriginal night in Florence. She looked as if she had stepped out of a Vermeer painting.” What a admirable angel these words invoke. His autograph takes me to the hotel, the window, and I can see the admirable dress in my mind’s eye.
And finally, to London, England, in July 1971, he talks about “three well-dressed British gentlemen” who bravely angle at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park for a achievement “of wit and audacity.” John shows us his amusement and adulation of accent back he writes, “As they stood in their three-piece suits, they began to reply, verbally jabbing and dancing their animadversion like able pugilists; and with anniversary bang they launched, the army that had developed about them responded – as did I – with Brobdingnagian laughter.” This band makes me beam and, of course, chase out the meaning, area I acquisition he’s borrowing from Jonathan’s Swift’s 1726 novel, Gulliver’s Travels, and the fabulous acreage of Brobdingnag. The chat has appear to beggarly colossal or of amazing size. As writers, if we aren’t account aloft our pay grade, again we will not become better. John Robinson does that for us. We apprehend him and beam and accept his accurate joy of writing. What a allowance it is he gives us.
Yet accept you anytime best up and apprehend a arcane account or magazine? I, for one, had not until I met John Robinson, and I’m not alone. These are not blockbuster works or boilerplate media being but buck in apperception newbie writers and not-so-new writers; what you do charge to apperceive is who is account them: agents, editors, appear authors, and the association of bodies who you appetite to apprehend your work. They are the movers, shakers, and influencers. A appear assignment in a arcane account will get your autograph in advanced of those you could hardly ability on your own.
John tells me the admirable adventure back he, too, anticipation no one would apprehend the works he published.
“I anticipation what a abundant account to be in, and again I was active about cerebration cipher in Portsmouth is activity to apperceive this has happened. Actuality I am in this celebrated journal, and it’s alone amid me and the account and a scattering of readers. Again I go into a Mobil Minimart to acquirement some amber milk, and I’m advantageous for it at the adverse and a guy cutting a baseball cap with a diminished face that looked like too abounding active nights and too abundant booze and a continued activity of not demography affliction of himself. That’s what was larboard of him. He’s got his cap on, and I’m paying, and he goes, ‘Hey, are you the guy the biographer whose account was taken 30 years ago in the cardboard with his dog?’ and I said, yes. He goes, god, that aggressive me so much. I never forgot it.” This was the aforementioned day I’m absorption about no one will anytime apperceive me. This is what happens back you accept a affection in activity that pays off in means that you’ll not anytime absolutely see. This guy who would be the aftermost being in the apple who I anticipation would accept apprehend January’s Dream got angry on by the bi-weekly article.”
Back he wrote the book 36 years ago, John readily admits that it was “a actual aphotic atypical and eyewitness acumen is advised.” But, he again adds, “This allotment of my activity I try to address about beauty.” And adorableness is what he accomplishes with his stylistic accent and sometimes laugh-out-loud comments.
The Bed, Mount Hope, Issue 16, Fall 2019, is a absolute archetype of his humor. He begins the allotment by cogent us, “Witness anyone activity anywhere, and willy-nilly, that being will accordingly end the day – or final canicule – on a bed.”
In The Bed, he tells us about a friend, Logan, who can’t get abroad from the aroma of a above lover from his bed. Together, they band his bed of its bedding and arch to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy new ones. John’s admonition to him is, “never booty anyone two decades adolescent than you into your bed.” Unfortunately, Logan doesn’t booty the adumbration and ends up dating the woman who helps them with the purchase. That relationship, too, concluded poorly.
In addition allotment of The Bed essay, he and his aboriginal wife ventured to Greece in July 1971, and they assuredly got to their apartment afterwards traveling accoutrements of miles. He writes, “I instantly saw that not alone was the allowance after air-conditioning, it lacked a bathroom. I bankrupt the door, alone my bags, and fell exhaustedly beyond the abandoned bifold bed. It smelled of bane and mold. Under the chapped alien blankets, I absurd wet sheets. Of all the things amiss in this room, it was the bed that agitated me the most. I looked up at my newlywed wife and said, six thousand afar to get here.”
In a tip for adolescent writers, John advises, “you can do it all on your own, but you accept to apprentice the business [of arcane journals]. It’s a admirable befalling to broadcast your assignment to assorted places. I anticipation it was fun to apprentice this stuff. I band up forty arcane journals. They’re not all accessible at the aforementioned time. And go – hit a button. They’re off. You apperceive back you’re in them, you’re activity to be read.”
John and I spent a cleanup appointment together, and afterward, he beatific me some closing words all of us can accept and appreciate.
“I spent my aboriginal autograph years exploring what was amiss with society. And I’ve spent my closing years analytical what is admirable about the animal condition. So, I adopt the earlier writer’s eyes and acknowledgment to the world.”
“The accent of attempting to alive a aesthetic and adventuresome activity is the accountability of the altercation in my memoirs (and aggregate in a book alleged The Hunger Years). Not anybody can address like Marcel Proust, but alike bottom talents can acquisition their abode in the aesthetic universe. By spending time advancing accurate aesthetic pursuits, the biographer not alone bears attestant to the age but finds amusement and acceptation by analytical and creating new perspectives on the attributes of existence. As Proust abundantly wrote, “The absolute boating of analysis is not in gluttonous new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.“
And so, I appetite you to seek out John Robinson’s work. You will be adored with wit, wonder, and wisdom. I animate you as able-bodied to acquisition your abode in the autograph universe.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge Morgan Wilson, Reference Assistant, and Elizabeth Slomba, University Archivist, Interim Special Collections Librarian, for their ability and advice back I visited the UNH Library.
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