9-6-11: The Thing That Might Not Work
Dudley Clendinen is an award-winning author and journalist who lives here in Baltimore. A former reporter and editorial writer for The New York Times, he found out in November, at age 66, that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, more popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
There is no known cure for ALS, and once a person is diagnosed, they usually live between 1.5 to 3 years.
Over the past few months, Dudley has been speaking with Tom Hall about living with ALS. In this conversation, Dudley talks with Tom about the things he wants to get done before he dies. Tom calls it a bucket list – Dudley says it’s really the things he’d really like to treat himself to, but never allowed himself to–“things that were so extravagantly satisfying, they seemed selfish. “
Those things include seeing Jon Stewart live, reading the Old Testament, and cashing a check from the Bank of Dudley — a bank with branches in the towns of Dublin and Dudley, Georgia. Dudley also wants to go to New Orleans to hear his nephew—and namesake—Nathan Dudley Harrison play the fiddle and banjo.
Dudley also has to balance his desire to do these things with the need to find time to write. He says that despite doing it for years, writing is still an immense amount of work. “Creation is–I used to think of it as pushing a brick very slowly through my forehead. I got used to it—after a while, it got better than that. But it’s never been fun. Satisfying, yes.”
Dudley says the process of writing a book is painstaking–he’ll often have to go back and rewrite chapters — or, even more difficult, throw them out. “You have to be willing, in a book–like life–to risk doing the thing that might not work. It might not become a part of your life that fits, but trying it and failing—it will contribute something.”
At the end of this segment, you can hear the song “Search,” performed by Nathan Dudley Harrison’s girlfriend, Leyla McCalla, who’s based in New Orleans. More of her music is accessible here.
You can listen to all of our conversations with Dudley Clendinen at this link.