pages The Author Outlines A Letter of Apology to His Twin, Eaten in the Womb

by Richard Weems

Published in Issue No. 16 ~ September, 1998

  1. Header

    1. salutation: “Hi”? “Dear Sir”? “To Whom It May Concern”?

      1. note: consider sympathy cards

        1. suggestion: blank or simple

          1. addendum: no Bible quote!!

  2. Opening

    1. beg for sympathy?
    2. suggestion for opening: avoid certainty – a sure approach might suggest previous drafts or other experience at subject, thus abating appearance of emotional spontaneity.

      1. examples of certainty:

        1. What can I tell you of what you’ve missed so far?
        2. Yesterday, I imagined you this time on a boardwalk bench, offering me a hot dog.
        3. I envy where you are.  The climate must be nice. How’s the food?

      2. suggestion: best not start too uncertain, either, with false stammering – even the infant dead may hold certain intuitive powers.

        1. uncertainty:

          1. I’ve been debating the appropriateness of this letter for months now.

      3. suggestion: RESEARCH

        1. option 1: William Kennedy; Dangerous Liaisons; any other epistolary fiction involving spurned lovers, intendeds, etc.
        2. option 2: authors who write about experiences with bad families:

          1. Raymond Carver
          2. Tobias Wolff
          3. Joseph Heller
          4. Sylvia Plath
          5. Oscar Hijuelos
          6. Kenzaburo Oe.

            1. suggestion: disregard II. B.3.b.

  3. Body


      1. note: pauses or lack of directness will decrease likeliness of empathy (sympathy?) from addressee
      2. note: straightforwardness an asset with respects to literary endeavor

        1. example:

          1. . . .

            1. addendum: research for example

    2. remind addressee what you did and why

      1. suggestion for previous emphasis: details: avoid emotional expression and metaphor

        1. examples:

          1. The Natural Order of Things: Mom did not eat that day, and you merely took the advantage of the situation before it became a mutual struggle that could have terminated you both

            1. addendum: also suggests a certain altruism on your part: a two-fold extinction of fetal matter that was you and your brother would have more quickly rendered your mother void of all desire for existence

          2. blurred vision: womb fluid clouded your eyesight – your brother could have been anything!

            1. i.e., a litchi, a crawdad, a pear soaked in red wine. . .

          3. genetic fate (“My heredity made me do it.”)

            1. addendum: an excellent avoidance of blame!

    3. tell him what he’s missing

      1. suggestion: see III.B.1. – intent thus only derivable through analysis

        1. the bright colors of a fall morning
        2. chewing
        3. winding a grandfather clock
        4. an insuck of breath

    4. content (i.e., sub-text): an air of growth, of overcoming trauma, of moving on

      1. research: last chapters: The Prince of Tides; Henderson the Rain King

        1. addendum: refer to no self-help literature

          1. check on legitimacy of using term “literature” in such a context

        2. addendum: avoid Shakespearean method – too many echoes of deus ex machina
        3. note: make sure catharsis appears true and not literary

          1. research: is there a difference?

      2. suggestion: avoid negative expression – keep to language of affirmation

        1. addendum: avoid overly positive expression that may suggest unresolved or unconscious sadness

          1. suggestion: use language that is acknowledgedly sad, but accepting inherent sadness to produce a certain positive melancholy (existential? or typical artistic nature?)

            1. example: “About as good a day today as one can hope for, realistically…”
            2. research: St. Augustine; Albert Camus; Samuel Beckett; Anne Sexton (??)

              1. addendum to St. Augustine suggestion: one must always refer back to the masters

                1. why?: I quote: “All writers are more or less faithful amanuenses of the spirit, translators and annotators of pre-existing archetypes.”

                  1. research: who said that?

                    1. suggestion: must keep going . . . keep going

                      1. suggestion.

account_box More About

Richard K. Weems ( is the author of Anything He Wants, winner of the Spire Fiction Award and finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award, and The Need for Character. His short story publications include North American Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Mississippi Review, Other Voices, Crescent Review, The Florida Review and The Beloit Fiction Journal. He will be teaching once again this MLK weekend at the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway in Cape May, New Jersey.