Letters were my apprenticeship: I used them as my commonplace book, as tryouts for characters, to get a purchase on what mattered to me and how I might articulate what mattered. I wrote weather reports and geography lessons, how snow touched the black waters of the Bosporus, how the sun bore down on Lindos, what a ninth consecutive day of rain did to Vienna. Hundreds of these letters, most unanswered. What was the recipient to say? This was not correspondence (as my amused brother now realizes); these were finger exercises, and just about as welcome to my audience as a sixth, ninth, fifteenth run-through of "Heartaches" by a first-year student of the tenor sax.Geoffrey Wolff, A Day at the Beach: Recollections, 2d ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), p.