After last week’s April Manifesto, I carried on living my life for two whole days of healthy, happy madness, and then licked a bad shopping cart or something because Monday morning I woke up feeling distinctly like truck goo. 24 short hours later and I was mostly fine. All hail — oh I don’t know what to hail anymore. Evidently my immune system has the fortitude of a housefly. Won’t be hailing that.
Let us not discuss how I have been sick on and off with two-day breaks for the past MONTH. Let us instead discuss how much great reading I have had the time to do!
There has been internet reading. I started using a feed reader this calendar year but keep forgetting to Go To It because I have been old-skool click-around-the-net reading for the past *mumble* years. Anyway, I have caught up on my feed reader TWICE. That’s like 600 posts. I can’t link to any of them because they’re gone, now, but I read them dammit. I read them.
There has also been magazine reading. Recently I discovered the second floor of the New Westminster Public Library. The magazines are up there. Tonnes of them. Mostly I’ve been taking out literary journals, to see what the published and prize winning are writing these days. Note: I don’t recommend reading these when you are flat on your back because a) they are generally not nearly funny enough and b) if you are aspiring to be published or prized it can be demoralizing to read excellent writing while you are unable to hold a ballpoint in your hand. Prism International and Event Magazine (through New Westminster’s own Douglas College) feature some very fine writing indeed.
I also borrowed a copy of Yoga Journal, which turns out to be mostly a shill for The Weight Loss Consortium.
I read Sarah Silverman’s autobiography, “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.”. A lot of it was very funny. I never paid much attention to Sarah Silverman but now I am more interested in her.
I read “A Spot of Bother”by Mark Haddon. It was an excellent dysfunctional family novel, very British, which is a nice change from Canadian dysfunction. The British do it much funnier. Each quirky character got a POV chapter and it was a bit dizzying. Like a revolving door of quirk. But it all tied together in the end and what a relief.
And right now I am finishing a collection of Raymond Carver stories and essays called “Call if You need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose.” His short fiction is inspiring; slow burn, dread in your stomach, and characters who are just perfect. They are just on-the-nose perfect. Then there are the essays.
First, his essay “On Writing.” He references another essay, by Flannery O’Connor, called “Writing Short Stories,” in which she ..talks about writing as an act of discovery. O’Connor says she most often did not know where she was going when she sat down to work on a short story. She says she doubts that many writers know where they are going when they begin something. (p 91)
Carver goes on to say:
When I read this some years ago it came as a shock that she, or anyone for that matter, wrote stories in this fashion. I thought this was my uncomfortable secret, and I was a little uneasy with it. (p 92)
I am not comparing myself to Raymond Carver or Flannery O’Connor but I also thought that was my uncomfortable secret.
In the next essay, “Fires” he talks about influences. He says,
I have to say that the greatest single influence on my life, and on my writing, directly and indirectly, has been my two children. They were born before I was twenty, and from beginning to end of our habitation under the same roof…there wasn’t any area of my life where their heavy and often baleful influence didn’t reach. (p 97)
He talks about realizing that having these children, and having to make some kind of living to help support his family, meant he would only be able to write short stories and poems, things he has an hour for after dinner. So he wrote stories and poems.
This hit-and-miss way of writing lasted for nearly two decades. There were good times back there, of course; certain grown-up pleasures and satisfactions that only parents have access to. But I’d take poison before I’d go through that time again. (p 102)
Number one thing I love about this: the matter-of-factness, the ‘well, I was going to write something so it had to be short. Damn kids. Get outta my garage.’
Number two thing: hearing a male writer talk about the job of child-rearing / family life and its effect on his writing. This is something I hear a lot from women who are mothers who write. (woman motherwriters?) And a lot of that is because of the company I keep and the memoirs I’m interested in. (rock stars and woman motherwriters, mainly. And Sarah Silverman.) I don’t think I’ve ever heard a male writer say, ‘Man, yeah, my kids kept me from writing novels. Pain in the ass. Worth it, but a total pain in the ass.’ Most of the time, male writers with children appear to function as male writers without children: seamlessly. Which may be because they are not talking about how they are writing their novels on post-its in the bathroom, or because they genuinely aren’t, they’re writing when they feel like it while their partners take up the slack.
I don’t know. But Raymond Carver makes me happy. May he rest in peace.