Last Christmas my husband gifted me a subscription to The Sun against my wishes. I had heard of the magazine before, the fact that it was literary, truly progressive and ad free. I had subscriptions to some great magazines before but never really took to reading them cover to cover--The Atlantic, The New Yorker would pile up the on the coffee table mixed up with unsolicited copies of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions until finally I would put them in the recycling bin, racked with guilt. Then in November a brochure came with exquisite photographs, captivating words and an attractive subscription price. My husband said that, as the literary person I am—a Master’s in English, a PhD in Spanish, many articles and books written and published—I would love the stories in this magazine. No, I said. If I sit down to read anything other than a book, I’d rather it be something random but free that I stumble up online. No commitment, no guilt.
But he refused to listen and so that Christmas I received my first issue of The Sun. I was hooked.
There’s something about holding a selection of pieces of various genres that speak to one another and to you, that break your heart wide open, that give you discomfort or joy, that move your core or simply make you shake your head and wonder “How could someone write something so compelling about that?” There’s something about receiving such a collection once a month knowing that you are going to have to make the pieces last for at least a few days so that the wait until the next delivery doesn’t seem too long. Perhaps in a different period of my life I wouldn’t have become so enchanted with the magazine. But at a moment in which I’m transitioning from being an avid writer who needed to repress her impulses because other parts of life got in the way, to one who has decided to actually quit her day job to begin writing full time, well, at that moment, the subscription contributed to a real life transformation.
The stories I read in the first five issues I received in our post office box spoke to me in many ways, both as a reader and as I writer. I’ve been writing stories all my life, ever since I knew how to write. I was a precocious published writer and literary contest winner of a handful of stories I wrote in my adolescence and all the way through college. Then came the scholarly articles on Latin American literature, a book published on the fictions produced in the aftermath of the Malvinas/Falklands War, an award winning documentary film on a related topic, etc. Last summer I finished my first novel, in Spanish, and last month my first play, in English—I’m now working on getting those out into the world.
Despite writing a lot, I could never quite justify the impulse to start writing about my real life, although all of my writing is more or less based on my life experiences—whose writing isn’t. Who would want to read about my life? I thought. But then those pieces came in the mail and I found myself moved by the story of a woman unbeknownst to me who loves running and wrote about that love; about one who, drowned in grief, couldn’t leave her bedroom until someone told her she had to go open the curtains in her living room every day, walk fourteen steps. There’s something profound about knowing that these pieces are telling true stories, but not because fiction isn’t profound or doesn’t speak truth. What it is, I think, is the vertigo that happens when you, as a reader, find yourself in that gap between the assurance of what’s supposed to be true and the certainty that there are actually no assurances. Those non-fiction pieces acted as catalysts to the desire that has been growing inside of me for quite a long time now, one that fits the way in which Alice Munro describes the last four pieces of Dear Life: “autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact.”
I am now working on various non-fiction pieces of my own and rediscovering the genre in different outlets I've been finding out in the world. Thanks to the writers in The Sun for this inspiration.