Monday, July 27, 2015

We Went to the Beach

I finally read a Kate Christensen novel.  Tim once suggested reading her and I turned up my nose.  "Isn't she an alcoholic?" was my unfortunate response. 

Of course, I was thinking of her first novel called In the Drink which I mistook for a memoir.  Ha!  Add this to the growing list of literary blips in my brain, like the time I was disappointed to learn that A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was not, in fact, a translated book of nonfiction.  Crestfallen!

In the Drink
is, in fact, about drinking too much.  It's also about being young and clueless in New York City which, on my good days, is something I write about, too. 

I really liked In the Drink, so much that I went upstairs to where my husband hoards - I mean, stores - a metric ton of books.  I pulled down The Great Man, Christensen's fourth novel.  It won a major prize!  The PEN/Faulkner, in 2008. 

In other book news, I finished Jonathan Franzen's book of essays, Farther Away.  Some people think it's fun to hate his guts but I really do like his writing, his nonfiction in particular.  I appreciate when he openly talks about his coming of age as a writer.   In "On Autobiographical Fiction," he walks through his many attempts to not write about his family or his past self while writing The Corrections.  A few things happened in his life that made "going there" safer.  First, his marriage, which was a bit of a hindrance and hotbed of misery, fell apart.  Then, his mom got sick.  Finally, he had a conversation with a friend who called him out on his worry about getting his brother's experience wrong.

To Franzen's shock, his friend says: "Do you think your brother's life revolves around you?  Do you think he's not an adult with a life of his own, full of things more important than you are?  Do you think you're so powerful that something you write in a novel is going to harm him?" 

Franzen also talks about the difficulties of starting new work, and how he has to become a new person to do so:

"I'd like to devote the remainder of my remarks to the idea of becoming the person who can write the book you need to write....I will note in advance that much of the struggle consisted - as I think it always will for writers fully engaged with the problem of the novel - in overcoming shame, guilt, and depression.  I'll also note that I'll be experiencing some fresh shame as I do this."

Ha!  If this were one of the email newsletters flooding my inbox every day, I would highlight "the struggle consisted in overcoming shame, guilt, and depression" and hang a little Tweet This! next to it. 

Except those pre-selected Tweet This! moments drive me up a wall.  Forget trying to write a novel; what could be more arrogant than assuming your thoughts are tweetable to someone else, am I right, Internet?

I'm gonna hop off my essay soapbox now.  My last post on Emily Fox Gordon was its own term paper, and I hope we all survived it!  This week, looking for a blueberry cake recipe for the mound of perfect berries waiting patiently in our freezer, I thought, why don't I just throw up some recipes on this site?  Would you guys think I'd lost my way? 

I haven't lost my way, I promise.  I'm just plugging away at summer, flirting with A/C and trying not to drink too many frozen Cokes.  Scott Spenser said a novelist is someone who sits around the house all day in his underwear, trying not to smoke.  Now that smoking is so out of vogue, the definition is probably closer to someone who sits around in her Lululemon pants all day, trying to do six minutes of yoga. 
Speaking of yoga, Samantha is practicing standing in the middle of the room on her own.  She crouches, pre-Crow pose, and inches up slowly.  If she makes it all the way up, she laughs hysterically.  If she falls on her butt, she takes it like a champ and starts all over.  It reminds me of learning new poses: the elation when I get it, the obsession to try again when I fall out of it, the taste of it like a memory in my muscles, a form trying to express itself, a fire starting in my cells.

I think, if you can get past some the shame or the guilt or the plain inexperience that keeps you from embracing the unknown, life can be kinda sweet sometimes.  What do you think?  Do you agree?  If so, tweet it!

More on beach trips here:

With a baby
With an Eric Vithalani poem
With a coupla self-esteem tips

As a friend of mine would say: You're welcome!

1 comment:

  1. I just tweeted out all of the samantha photos!! I love your love for Franzen / those essays all sound great.


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