A writing addiction?Another writer friend, Don Monkerud, wonders if there aren't any
"drugs to treat this writing desire. It would help us out tremendously... anyone who can escape this need to isolate oneself in a room and write for hours--toward what end, I keep asking myself--can go on and lead a productive life."I suppose there isn't any one thing that drives us to write. For me, it's no longer about fame and fortune; I don't expect either (though I won't get out of their way if they come after me). Partly, I do it for the same reason as García Márquez: "So my friends will love me better." That's why I put things up on my blog, to imagine myself in a dialogue (it becomes a real dialogue when somebody answers me, which happens, but rarely). The main reason, though, must be just that I have to try to understand what's going on, including what's going on in my own head. I make journal entries that I don't expect ever to look at again, because the process of writing is itself enough for me to work out some problem. Also I do it for practice: try to describe something, say the dappled water tanks on the roofs I see outside my window, each a barrel of vertical rough wood slats, crowned with a 16-paneled Chinese coolie's hat, against a background curtain of horizontal courses of black and russet brick. Efforts like these are like finger exercises on a guitar or piano. Or maybe more like batting practice, because it's a matter of hand-eye coordination. And why do it? Mainly for the satisfaction of doing it a little better each time, and in the hopes of getting to strut my stuff before a wider audience.
Nuthin but wimminIt's my dirty little secret. "Dirty" in the old fashioned sense, of something naughty and sexual. And "little" because, well, not many people would make a big deal about it. But that's because they don't really understand. I love women.
Not in the way Hustler Magazine wants us to love women. Or rather, not only in that way. As beings to possess or merely conquer, or repositories of my anxieties and sperm. But rather as endlessly fascinating people, who live in the same world I do but who see it differently, and who are vulnerable and strong in ways that we, usually, are not.
So naturally I got a big thrill out of the show "Rumi's Math" that I commented on a couple of days ago. And last night's thrill was maybe even more intense, at another all-woman production in New York's "Fringe" festival of theater. It was "El sueño de Sor Juana," presented by four athletic young dancers and a tall guitarist, all women from the theater company "Mujeres en Ritual" from Tijuana, Mexico, dancing and reciting the impassioned verse of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
There were not many of us in the little Greenwich Street Theatre (those in the biz like to spell "theatre" that way). And we didn't hear anyone but ourselves speaking in Spanish, so I wonder how many, if any, could actually follow the clear, forceful enunciation of the Mexican nun's erudite and complex verse. Even we had trouble following the complicated rhyme schemes in Golden Age (17th century) Spanish, filled with literary and Biblical allusions. The women were alternately waifs at a bus stop, whores, doñas of the colonial elite, nuns, political activists, free spirits -- all signified by costume changes and dance movements ranging from saucy to commanding. The literal meanings of the verse may have been beyond our ken, but the sense of the women's enjoyment of their different ways of being was clear as could be.
More wimmin: I really liked the One Story story in No. 23 (July 11, 2003): "Houses," by Martha Witt. It's a very womanly story, about secrets and fears that we men rarely know how to address. A 32 year old American has fled to Rio de Janeiro to escape deeply painful memories, and especially the demand to be nothing but a child-bearer, only to face another, Brazilian version of the monster. And Annie Proulx, in the New Yorker (Aug. 18), does again what no other woman I know, and too few men, can do well: Tell the story of the fear, especially fear of change, beneath the bluster of a manly man, and how it causes him to lose his chance to save himself.
SillylandYou're probably not be old enough to recall that, at the conclusion of a state visit in 1964, French President Charles de Gaulle declared, «Le Brésil n'est pas un pays sérieux.» (I suppose the general, all stiff two meters of him, just couldn't catch on to the samba.)
And here we have the California recall circus, Texas legislators fleeing to Albuquerque to avoid Republican steamrolling of redistricting, federal government-imposed terror alert color codes to make people nervous to no purpose (because they don't suggest any particular action), a war on terror that inflicts terror (what, after all, does "shock and awe" mean?) and is designed to provoke more terror (because it closes down on legal means of protest), an economic policy that has turned a record surplus into a record deficit so that the rich become richer, all presided over by a dummy who lost the election but we let get appointed anyway.
Les États-Unis n'est pas un pays sérieux.
Just what I've been telling youFrom today's Publisher's Marketplace: 10 August, 2003
non-fiction Thenation.com columnist, frequent Today Show guest and internist and clinical professor of medicine at NYU Marc Siegel, M.D.'s FIGHT OR FLIGHT, asserting that government and the media profit from creating unnecessary fear, and looking at the effect that has on all of us, to Eric Nelson at Wiley, by Joelle Delbourgo (world English).
Mermaids(From my notebook, earlier this morning.) Another gray, humid day in New York, promising rain. I awoke early, about 5:30, and sank into despair. Much better to sink into the cool sea, searching for a school of mermaids. There are pretty slender fish that may be mermaids in disguise, with gold and bright bue markings on their faces and bodies, and swarms of wider, flatter-bodied beasts with thin vertical stripes of gold against a brownish gray who might be ladies in waiting if the mermaids do appear. A larger, fatter fish-shaped glutton painted like a zebra explores the rough-edged underwater caves. Medusas expand and compress their purplish-pink ballet skirts to rise or fall in the water, hovering always close to the surface, their long long legs dangling lazily beneath them. And in the sandy bottom, where there are patches bare of thickets of thick green weeds or of reefs or of water-sculpted rocks, little sand-colored creatures scratch at the sand with whisker tentacles around their mouths. But there are no mermaids in sight. Not even an octopus lurking in the jagged channels of the rock.
But it is now a week since we left Spain and the waters on its coast, and while there are many wondrous things here in Manhattan, I don't expect a school of mermaids or balletic jellyfish. And yet, last night, we saw a motion-poem just as magical, mermaid-like in its seductive, womanly grace.
"Rumi's Math" is one of 220 theatrical works to be presented this month in the Fringe festival at theaters around town. Created by a young Turkish woman director and playwright, Handan Özbilgin, it translates the love-search of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi of Konya (Turkey) in the 13th century to a video and dance on the subways and river-edges of 21st century New York. One woman searches for the other who will complete her, her unknown Friend, while this other woman is also searching though she doesn't know it. Eight women, with a few men glimpsed briefly in the videos -- their appearance serving mostly to remind us o the femaleness of the eight, the two seekers and the spirits who conspire to guide them.
I think Rumi would have been pleased. Rumi's math formula: one plus one equals One. Lovely, loverly, the mathematics of love.