Gerda, my wife and first reader of my manuscripts, is an honest critic of my work, and a good one. For years, the male ego being what it is, I listened to her thoughts on a script, generally expressed my disagreements with her suggestions—but then went into my office and quietly fixed things according to her observations before sending the book off to my editor. Eventually, I grew up and learned to acknowledge the wisdom of her suggestions at the time she made them.
When she finished reading the manuscript of THE CITY, she came into my office and said, “I think this is the first time I’ve ever said a book is perfect in every scene.” I expressed my concern that she was trying to spare my feelings. “No,” she said, “when it comes to your writing, sweetie, I don’t care about your feelings, only about the book.” Later, at dinner, when I pressed her to tell me what shereally thought, she said, “This pasta is delicious, isn’t it?” When I asked again as we were about to brush our teeth to go to bed, she said, “Have you flossed?” I almost woke her in the middle of the night to pose the question once more, but our dog, Anna, sleeping at the foot of the bed, growled softly as though with psychic awareness of what I was about to do. In the morning, when I asked again, Gerda said, “Have I ever not said what I mean?”
She is the most straight-forward and honest person I’ve ever known, so I said, “I’m an idiot.” She said, “Have you always known, or is this a new realization on your part?” I’ve always known.