Friday, January 8, 2016

Dear Reader,

On the recommendation of a dear friend, I am currently reading "Why be Happy when you could be Normal" by Jeanette Winterson, and it is everything I typically hate about literature. Indulgently verbose, self-pitying, victim-aggrandizing, poetical in lieu of clear/linear.  I do and have read a lot in my life and know what I like and what I am beyond, and this is that.  Something I have no time for is other people's beloved, cliched aha moments.  I endeavor never to impose those on my audience/readers, and ask not to have my time wasted with that of other writers.

And yet.

I kept reading it because I have a nasty habit of buying kindle books and forgetting they exist. While the mass of a book carries its own magnetism (if only the pedantic reminder of money spent) a kindle - or, the kindle app on my iPad - offers none of that. And now, I am no longer a student, nor an itinerant world-traveling teacher with all expenses paid, and so cannot afford expensive, profit less habits. In 2016, I have vowed to finish my Kindle list.  Not liking something is not sufficient reason to stop reading it (as it is not, in my opinion, sufficient reason to end a relationship or quit a job), but rather it is an opportunity to expand my mind through new experiences and direct inquiry. So I soldier on.

I've just reached the chapter where Jeanette leaves Accrington and takes the train to Oxford to beg for a place at university. She is reading Gertrude Stein and making much of it - which I suppose means it will be important in her later life, though now she is not particularly attached. She's living in her Mini, having been kicked out of her mother's house, subsisting on beans and toast made over ton camping cookware.  That chapter.  And she's going on about Margaret Thatcher because it's 1979 and that political voice was rising.  Not the voice of militant, corrupt consumerist conservatism - those are opinions layered on over the last 30 years since Margaret Thatcher was in power.  The voice of opportunity parity, class transcendence, bootstraps.  The loud, angry, able-bodied objections to feeble-minded post post-war appeasement pacifism. Where family values and traditions and old adages and grumbling were the problem, and the solution was brutal, honest pragmatism. The rise of the best man to win. (I am a fan of Thatcher's. Yes, in spite of Pinochet. Women like that are what I want to be. Fuck consensus.)

I wrote a play about that time period, and specifically about Margaret Thatcher and her influence on England, and her influence on my family - making my father leave an England wracked by inefficiencies and union politics and old boy systems.  So when Jeanette admits to voting for Thatcher (in that brittle cold Englishwoman way, that suggests she is now ashamed of herself), my interest peaks. I am now reading the book while winding from the 6 train through 53rd street station, up the stairs, across Lexington Avenue and on my walk home, narrowly missing the passers-by in my peripheral vision.  I am now interested in Jeanette.

Then, there's this:  

"And later, when I was successful, but accused of arrogance, I wanted to drag every journalist who misunderstood to this place, and make them see that for a woman, a working-class woman, to want to be a writer, to want to be a good writer, and to believe that you were good enough, that was not arrogance; that was politics."

And I realize that I still write because I'm angry about England, and growing up as a foreigner in a country I thought was mine. Never being good enough in school, or for my parents who were not abusive but who were too busy and too stressed and too confused by my rage to handle me, so who gave me the benevolent handicap of total, chaotic freedom.  And that isn't it a blessing that she doesn't have to apologize for voting for Thatcher, because I understand, because everything she's already written makes sense of her from the inside out, makes me become her, and isn't that what it is to be an artist?  To make someone fall in love with you?  And see the world the way you see it because they are you? Or, a more spirited or less-advantaged or differently-gendered or exotically-located version of you? And isn't the point to be indulgent?  And isn't that what's
been so wrong with my writing for the past 12 years, since I have formally "learned to write"?

Anyway.  These were my thoughts.

Thanks for listening.

- Lucy

1 comment:

  1. Gimme your "aha moments", Lucy! Falling in love with you already.