The Story of Edgar Sawtelle Webcast Transcript
Oprah: No. No, no, no, no, no. There's a distinct moment when Almondine—okay, so listen—listen to this. "She stepped onto the sharp red gravel of the road. She was very nearly not there at all, so deeply was she inside her own mind. There was a time in her when he had fallen from an apple tree, a tree she'd just stepped away from." I'm on page 463, everybody. One, two, three paragraphs down. "He'd landed with a thump on his back. A time in the winter when he'd piled the snow on her face until the world had gone white and she dug for his mittened hand. Inside her were countless mornings watching his eyes flutter open as he woke. Above all, she recalled the language the two of them had invented. A language in which everything important could be said. She did not know how to ask the traveler what she needed to ask, nor what form its reply might take. But it was upon her now angry and rushed and it wouldn't be long before she knew the answer. A bloom of dust, like a thunder cloud, chased it down the hill. She stood broad side in the gravel and turned her head and asked her question. Asked if it had seen her boy. Her essence. Her soul. But if the traveler understood, it showed no sign."
Oprah: You still don't know. She got hit by the car.
Oprah: She was hit by the car.
David: Yeah, it's a truck. It's a gravel truck, actually.
Oprah: It's a gravel truck coming down the road. And, see, I thought that she was looking up and she saw the dust on the road.
Oprah: But Kate said, no—and we argued the next day. She was definitely hit by the—she was definitely hit.
David: Yeah. And when you called that first time we talked.
David: You talked about this.
Oprah: Yes. I wanted to know, was she hit by the truck?
David: I could tell you all had been having a debate about this.
David: And this is one of those—
Oprah: She was hit by the truck.
David: She was. Absolutely. Absolutely. Although after you pointed that out, I—it never occurred to me that there was any other interpretation of that chapter until we talked and then I realized, and I think I said this on the phone, I realized that I had written it because—because this chapter is so hard.
David: I felt like it had to be addressed rather impressionistically.
David: And so I—it—in my mind, it was absolutely clear what happened. But I wanted the language to be impressionistic. And I didn't realize that I had left open for interpretation exactly—
Oprah: How she died.
David: —exactly what happened there. And then I realized after we talked that Trudy thinks about Almondine having died but she doesn't say—she doesn't make reference to the situation.
Oprah: So, yeah, you don't really know Almondine is dead until he comes back and she says—
David: Yeah. But there's a couple—can I comment on that passage for a couple minutes?
Oprah: You can do anything you want.
David: One of the things that's important in that—in that passage is that it's about language.
Oprah: It is.
David: About how she's searching to try and answer a question and she doesn't have the words to get the question answered. So when I think of that passage, and what was on my mind when I was writing, was not the mechanics of what was happening in that scene, probably I should have paid more attention to that, but the idea that she was missing Edgar not just because he was her boy but he was a participant in this language that they had constructed.
Oprah: Also I felt—even just now when I read it the first time, oh, my heart ached. There's an aching and a longing in this need for the language.
Oprah: There's a—you can feel her heart aching and longing.
Oprah: Couldn't you, ladies, feel that?
All: Sure. Absolutely.
Oprah: Absolutely. Great to talk to you. Thank you for Skyping in with us tonight.
All: Thank you.
Oprah: Thank you so much. Okay. Our next reader is Cheryl from The Woodlands in Texas. She's Skyping us from her home library. Hi. Hi, Cheryl. Your question?
Cheryl: Hi, David. How are you both doing today?
Oprah: We're great. Love your library.
Cheryl: Thank you. I tried to straighten out the books yesterday so it still looks a little helter-skelter, I've afraid. Listen, David, there, were many, many, many things that I loved about your novel. One of the more compelling things I thought was the foreshadowing throughout the story. And it really was a hook that lulled you in and—or lured you in and kept you reading, in addition to the imagery and everything else you added to the story. But I was really intrigued by what I thought was the use of this sort of magical realism technique that I've seen other modern writers employ, and I was wondering if—if you were trying to use that technique that you had seen in other writers' writing and if so, who. And I'm specifically kind of focusing in on the prophesy of Ida Paine throughout all this and indirectly through the little girl at the diner. You know, she's almost like an Oracle of Delphi.
David: You got it.
Cheryl: And she doesn't seem to know the actual end result of what she's prophesying, but she knows something's up. And all of that seems very mystical to me. So I was wondering also as you're planting these seeds of prophesy, like it's only the wind. Or find the bottle. If you don't find the bottle, get out. Did you know at that point in time what the ending was going to be or what the end of the prophesy was? And then if I could sneak in a conjunctive question here.