Friday, January 21, 2011

Sunday, 12th July, Brussels

About her writing process: 

"What today?—more or less ‘normal’. I suppose, but still very impatient with other people’s words. This morning my volcano episode began to click into place. It is always a mystical experience when this happens with a story. I know I have to think lot about the feeling and the atmosphere of anything I want to write; and I know I have to do a lot of testing in my mind of situations. And I know that after thinking about it, it usually at one point clicks into place. But the amount of time needed for this to happen is out of my control. I have been thinking since we arrived 12 days ago—but it has not been high quality or concentrated thinking. In other words, I haven’t had my heart in it. And it is only yesterday and today, last night and this morning in bed that I began to see what I had to do with my three girls and the volcano. I expect to finish this process today, provided I can keep a bit to myself and not be distracted by others’ words and presences, and tomorrow, it should be flowing from the fingertips. I commit myself like this because I am interested to see if I am correct in my assessment of how I function, when it comes to writing. I can only contrast the present with how it was, say, from December to April, when I wrote what I feel are the best things I have done to date, when every spare moment, in the subway, doing the dishes, walking here or there, or just sitting, was enveloped in my story; my mind grew big enough and all-consuming and predominated, so that the story aggressed into other domains; whereas since May, what with M. leaving S. and organizing a household of four, and preparing to leave, it is everything else that has intruded into my mind and pushed out the story. I am impatient to go out into the beautiful sun of today and sit in the forest, to let G. and C. talk while I follow through with my story. I am tired of hearing the same old Columbia stories, told with the same adjectives and phrasing, as if it were a script. Just as I have become tired of telling the M.-S. story. I want to sweep all this old stuff out of my head for it is time to start with new and exciting things, thoughts."

Some notes:
1) Is this the volcano episode in Games of the Strong, which was not published until 12 years later?
2) My father told me the story of M. leaving S. with, I'm sure, the same phrasing and vivid bits--four heads leaning out of a window to see S. arrive home a few apartment entrances down and to see him emerge again, running out after finding an empty apartment--that they all repeated 40 years ago.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

more from July 11, 1970

Here's where my mother was almost wrong:

"One of the sadnesses of life is that no one, but no one, is as interested in oneself as one is oneself. Nobody would be interested in the quirks of my mind and the dilly little thoughts I’m putting down here; a husband or wife certainly wouldn’t be; a psychiatrist, well he couldn’t be, and he has his own set of quirks, etc. into which mine would be interspersed; the only person who would willingly listen and try to understand is one’s mother, and that’s the very person one can’t say all these things to. It is only from a parent, especially a mother, that one can demand and get attention."

If I were not interested, would I be reading these yellowed pages and typing them up? 

She is right about the mother thing, though, at least as the main person with whom to share one's "dilly little thoughts." And she certainly listened to mine. She was an amazing mother, and she wrote this a year before I was born, before she herself had the maternal perspective. I miss her and her thoughts, dilly and deep and brilliant.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

July 11, 1970

Not yet pregnant with me (It is hard to avoid measuring my mother's journals with my personal timeline), my mother was at a party in Brussels and had an odd experience, as if she were watching a movie:

"It reminded me how little the experience of watching movies jibes with the realty one lives in—watching Women in Love I could empathize with almost all of the four characters in turn, and I particularly remember a beautiful scene in which Birkin (Bates) and Ursula (Jenny Linden) run towards each other, naked, through forest and ferns, but with the camera turned sideways, so that she was running upwards and he downwards, giving the whole scene a powerful symbolism. Now I was there with them, also running through the ferns; but were I in fact running towards a man like that, it would in no way resemble the sensation of watching two others run together and imagining that it were I. Very subtle difference. And I often have wondered why thus and such a situation (a picnic, a ride on a bicycle, standing on a bridge and watching the water) does not have the power of an identical situation on celluloid. The answer is not that celluloid glamorizes, distorts, romanticizes, for I find real water as enchanting as water on a film; it is that, with a movie, one it watching and taking part vicariously in a perfect situation, with one’s whole concentration; with real life, one is actually part of the action and cannot step back and see the whole as a third, disinterested person. But last night I did feel I was watching a movie. Watching these people move about, and I don’t mean playing parts or acting. The parallel comes from my own lack of real involvement. R. made her entry, and it was as if I were watching her on cinemascope."

A few thoughts:
1) Is "Women in Love" (which I have never seen) the origin or just an example of the running-toward-each-other-through-the-grass cliche?
2) This reminds me of my own how movies/stories relate to real life: How I expect each situation to have a solution (good or bad), and I look at life as a story, with "perfect" constructions, "fated" (may be the wrong word) choices. It is hard not to, right? But there is not always a solution, and I don't necessarily believe in fate and tend to support the idea of free will, which does not fit the idea of a set, "perfect," movie-like story.