Scott’s postcards

I’m pretty sure that Scott would have told a different story if I’d let him.

He began by telling me about the place he lived in at the time I interviewed him, almost 10 years ago. Its walls were a “bit pockmarked,” he said. “Almost lunar.” When I re-read the transcript of our conversation now, I want to hear more about those pockmarked walls. I want to find out what Scott meant when he said it wasn’t the ideal home, but it “had taken something on that’s really special”.

I’ll probably never know now. The moment’s passed, and at the time my thoughts were entirely fixed on something else that Scott mentioned. All his family homes, he’d said, were designed by his architect mother and influenced, at least in part, by Scott and his sister’s “little-kid patterns”. This idea so charmed me that it dominated the rest of our conversation, and I’ve remained fixed on it ever since – it was the sole detail of our conversation to stick in my memory all these years.

Last week, Scott opened the postcards that I’d finally made and sent him as a memento of our conversation (you can see them below), and he detailed his reaction a day later in his blog. It was a thrill to read, with such immediacy, the thoughts that the postcards prompted for Scott on the “inevitable incompleteness of memory” and more. But, once again, I became distracted by a detail.

Scott described the postcards as a gift – an “altruistic act”. To me, however, they’re more like a debt settled. Studs Terkel, that prolific collector of interviews (and hero of mine), described himself as “no more than a wayfaring stranger, taking much and giving little”. (And this from one of the greatest chroniclers of 20th-century America.) “I was the beneficiary of others’ generosity,” he said, and with his tape recorder he “carried away valuables beyond price.”

Read more about this project.

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