I can almost hear Oprah now:
“So, you gals have both been writing stories for years, you've edited for each other since 1984, and now you've published this extraordinary compilation of short stories together. Would you mind telling us how you managed to do all that without killing each other?”
It's a nice fantasy, but somehow I don't think we'll hear those words dropping from Oprah's lips any time soon. However, the imagined query is worth pondering. If you're curious, read on.
Our early years did not bode well for future collaborations, creative or otherwise. Sometimes we got along, but mostly we didn't. My sister (who will hereafter be denoted by her initials, CAB) is eight and a half years older than I am. She was starting high school already on the day I entered kindergarten. I'll refrain from telling woeful tales of sibling rivalry. They would offer little pleasure to the reader, and even less nostalgic delight to ourselves!
There were good times. Those I remember most fondly revolve around music, television, and our own private world of make-believe. Listening to our favorite records--yes, records, a.k.a platters, licorice pizza-those 12-inch round black vinyl things, anyone remember them?--we would labor over an endless guest book for The Party. I never knew who would show up at these affairs. It depended on who CAB's Heroes of the Week were. We had an old ledger that someone had discarded long ago and, opening it to a rare blank page, CAB would challenge her handwriting skills. How often could she disguise her penmanship as new guests arrived and signed in?
In fiction we can freely exploit "outside" sources of information, alternate realities: the world of literature, history, cinema--in fact any world at all-is at our disposal. We can invoke the spirits of other artists who do not happen to share our lifetime, asking for their blessings and perhaps their advice. We can play with those myriad "What if?"s that experience strews in our path. We can design a setting where human beings have the time and space to grapple meaningfully with the challenge of being human--for, it seems to me, being human is no less maddening and no less glorious or ecstatic than it was in ancient days. Art, generally speaking, is the one forum we still have for taking the sacred pause that refreshes.
Once, it seemed, Time pushed us along more gently. Now we are continually goaded to jet-flight. And at what cost? Need I tell you I'm not talking about dollars?
Since 1980 or so, my sister and I have been dog-paddling stubbornly against the brisk current of our lives. In so doing, we've developed ways and means of expressing ourselves that are not identical. A discerning reader, however, is bound to find some essential commonality of vision. Both of us have obeyed the impulse to forge a new mythology. We have faith that it may not be as "personal" as we sometimes judge it to be. Our characters dwell in places that are constructed from luminous shards of memory or imagination. Far be it from us, though, to claim exclusive rights to those shards...