Tuesday, April 8, 2008

AV: The Collective Speaks

Ordinarily, I would have responded to SS in a comment, as most of us do when moved to it.

However, in a burst of non-conformity and outlandishness, I have decided to "cross-talk" in a post. Is that a "cross-talk-post"?

This is in response to the Committee post in which she so eloquently describes the awful characters we each carry around in us to a greater or lesser extent.

The following is an excerpt from one of my favorite books, "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. No doubt you've heard of it. It's so important to me that I keep a copy in my office where, coincidentally, I am writing this post (on work time!! oh my!). I also have a copy at home. It makes me feel better just knowing that its fallible paperback-bound pages are orange-ing from the edges in to the middles on my bookshelves. Just does.

But I digress.

Here's something about the collective, or committee, or the general paranoia that besets so many of us when we decide maybe it's time to actually write something. BTW, for the copyright hounds out there, I didn't get permission, but I'm thinking she won't mind because I'm gonna highly recommend you go out and get a copy for yourself.

(writing about her writing students ...)
"... they want to know why they feel so crazy when they sit down to work, why they have these wonderful ideas and then they sit down and write one sentence and see with horror that it is a bad one, and then every major form of mental illness from which they suffer surfaces, leaping out of the water like trout -- the delusions, hypochondria, the grandiosity, the self-loathing, the inability to track one thought to completion, even the hand-washing fixation, the Howard Hughes germ phobias. And especially, the paranoia.

"You can be defeated and disoriented by all these feelings, I tell them, or you can see the paranoia, for instance, as wonderful material. You can use it as the raw clay that you pull out of the river: surely one of your characters is riddled with it, and so in giving that person this particular quality, you get to use it, shape it into something true and funny or frightening. I read them a poem by Phillip Lopate that someone once sent me, that goes:

We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting,
as a group,
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.
Your analyst is
in on it,
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective."

1 comment:

The Write Bunch said...

RS: I love that book and that poem.