With each accomplishment you place it atop all the others you walk into your kitchen smooth your apron you have outstripped your mother’s expectations of you happy mother of two a most excellent wife.
You wonder now after the books the almost-entirely-unread books and the promise please please of another book maybe a bit of cash maybe two hundred copies will sell you realize that you have to unpeel yourself bits and pieces so thin her skin is fifty years old plus the year in water you will always be older than what you are you are not the writer you were looking for.
Because you have not given up your life for art.
I read Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm Wednesday night. I have always hated Annie Dillard, her impossible smugness such assurance. But when I read her I am taken fooled tricked I do begrudgingly love her writing. In spite of her. I can’t explain it. Almost as though a parent you dislike gives you a pony you’re fifty and he gives you a pony and in spite of his inattention throughout your life…..no that’s not it.
She’s like a lover who is always right and you are drawn in by her arrogance and sureness that she will always lay you back in bed but you’d rather not you’d rather leave but you always lie back her brain will always push you down.
I love her writing in spite of her. In spite of her ENORMOUS person. In spite of her ENORMOUS righteousness.
Holy the Firm is outstanding. It is a prayer with islands and planes and moths and an orange cat. A girl with her face, her “slaughtered” face. And the self-righteous prick of woman moving effortlessly between them.
My only complaint is that the opening the heartrending ceiling ripping language is never picked up again. Not quite.
This is a lesson to me of course. She makes her writing accessible. And she has no drop of desperation in her, none that she would ever eke out to you. Or me. She comes in and drops flowers fragrances rainy apples onto the floor at your feet and slips out before you can say hello because she doesn’t give a shit about you or what you think of her.
Could I ever be this person this sort of writer? I tell my students, it’s the work that counts. Not what you want for the work. The work is more important than you. Horrible advice of course but if only. Then I could be Annie Dillard and hate myself and then I would stop hating myself and hang out and read books by candlelight and make stunning observations about islands.
No. This does not indicate my bitterness.
Please read Holy the Firm. Also, For The Time Being. I haven’t read her other books yet.
Of course, I used to love her because of Mrs. Eberly. But then I didn’t.
I hate “Eclipse” and “Living Like Weasels.” Swill. Well-written, yes. Of course. But I’d rather not.
She’d rather write outward. I would rather write inward. I love inward writers. Mostly I love my own inwardness. Hence, the inaccessibility of my work. Hence, what might be read will fester inside books. No. Inside my brain inside my belly button singing.
I think too much. Just go read the book and love the book. And if you are a student of mine go read and love her books and David Sedaris too, whom I loathe. He, also, is so ENORMOUS I cannot hear him.
No doubt their fault is mine also, yes. Generally, I despise that which is most like myself.
My own ENORMOUSNESS. Myself writ LARGE.