The clinic represented a whole lot of things I feel deeply conflicted about—the medicalization of childbirth, the immense economic privilege of mostly-white women in accessing fertility services when so many women in this country can’t even access good prenatal care—and I felt uncomfortable even being assessed.
“You’d find certain archetypes that would appear no matter what. For instance, the haunted merchant’s house in New York plays off the mythology of the unmarried woman, the spinster, as does the Winchester House. Things like this would crop up unexpectedly across the country, despite their radically different places and stories and cultures.”
“I suppose I realized I was working toward a book when I asked myself, How close can you get to an extinct bird? And then, I set out to try. My journey of combing through museums and specimen drawers was what ultimately spurred the longer narrative. Once I held an extinct bird skin in my hands, I knew I had to start sounding some alarms about our own environmental crises.”
Italo Calvino never visited China, though Invisible Cities does. Franz Kafka and Saul Bellow never visited locations that featured prominently in their novels. Even Shakespeare is guilty: his biographers have found no evidence of him ever leaving England, and so his myriad works set in Italy must have been based on speculation and research. While there is a concern that not researching a place can lead to a writer fetishizing or misrepresenting it, the facts stand that often writers are more than able to get away with it.
We all know libraries are great resources for writing. What isn’t always considered, however, is the intense power of archives for creative writers. What separates archives from the rest of the materials kept in libraries is that the vast majority of archival materials are unpublished. We can only truly know them, the stories they contain, the bits of brilliant light, by spending some time with them. Though we know archives as essential to the fact-finding part of research, not everyone sees them as essential to the creative part. But there are stories in archives, stories waiting to be told, and wading through the records for these gems is the tragically beautiful part of archival research.