July 23, 1978 |
Cooperstown, New York
The darkest period of my life, so far, arrived the summer I was pregnant with my eldest son. The future was growing in me with all of its terrifying unpredictability, and I found myself anxious, unable to work and woefully at sea.
Sometimes I read a biography of some tempestuous artist and find myself longing for fireworks! booze! bloody fights!; I do think that life must be so much more thrilling when you're actively miserable.
I once spent an entire night in a hotel in New York looking across the way into someone's apartment where nothing was happening but daily life, a phone call, television watching, staring into the fridge. Seeing how those strangers lived over that small distance and in absolute silence moved me deeply.
But I've married a deeply sensible person who is extremely good at talking me down from my various ledges, and who takes care of me in a billion ways.
I see history as really cyclical in terms of the intense idealism and the desire to create a better life outside of societal norms. In America, possibly because of whatever the American dream is, this happens over and over again. These eras repeat.
We're all functions of our societies, right? And we all become who we are because of the invisible forces that mold us.
Among so many things, 'Time Passes' has shown me subversive ways of portraying time, of looking away from the human to the far more terrifying, far more immense texture of time beneath the minute span of a human life.
Bigger stories are made out of longer acquaintance with fact and character, but I also love the tiny stories in which almost everything has to be inferred and imagined.
Sometimes immense things, like war and death and aging, are best seen from the corner of the eye and written of only obliquely, with tremendous lightness.
The greatest texts, I think, first dazzle, then with careful rereading, they instruct. I have learned from Virginia Woolf more than I even know how to articulate.
At least in my case, a very simple, regular, happy life makes for better writing.
At some point, I picked up an old library copy of 'To The Lighthouse' someone had bought for 25 cents. I began to read and didn't stop until the sun had blistered my back. A mysterious rightness, a beautiful submerged truth had invaded me, one that has ever since seemed slightly beyond my grasp.
Time is the currency – the highest valued currency we have now. And people giving you their time is so incredible. They don't have to like your book, either. That's a totally separate gift.
Total intimacy is a myth; that said, a particular kind of loneliness can be both beautiful and fruitful.
Marriage seems to be predicated on protecting a very deep and intimate form of mystery.
I love that he's both comic and tragic, and highly poetic but also just dirty at times. … I love that within the world of Shakespeare's plays, the whole world is sort of encompassed in a certain way.
While I know some women who are stunningly sanguine when they're pregnant, I dissolve into a total mess. What normally appears sturdy turns fragile: the economy, the climate, humanity's baseline social contract.
If there's a black cat that crosses the street in my path, I will turn around and walk 20 minutes out of my way to not cross it. You know how in New York there's a lot of scaffolding? I won't walk under scaffolding or under ladders. I wear things like a baseball player wears things that are supposed to have luck.
I have a feeling that books are a lot like people – they change as you age, so that some books that you hated in high school will strike you with the force of a revelation when you're older.
If there's a black cat that crosses the street in my path, I will turn around and walk 20 minutes out of my way to not cross it.
We think of stories a lot of the time as being horizontal texts, beginning to end. But I love the idea of having little vertical spikes in the story, too.
I am a person beset with fears, and one of my fears is that this thing that I will be writing for five years won't work. And the likelihood, of course, is that it won't – and that's fine.
I seem to long for community and mistrust it in equal measure, and so I spend most of my days carefully constructing various communities in stories and seeing if they fly.
I write everything out in longhand in one fast go. And then I throw out the first few and start over again. By the end of the first draft, the whole thing's messy and disgusting and horrible, but you really understand the foundational stuff.
I feel as if I've been so inured to failure, because I fail more than I succeed. As with any kind of fiction, I throw out so many pages; I get rejected so many times.
There aren't very many good models of feminine rage – and the ones that we remember are ones where women take that anger internally and implode themselves in a real way, like Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary.
My childhood was as conventional as you could get. I think I probably created 'Arcadia' with a certain amount of wishful thinking. I would have loved to have more looseness and freedom and community.
I see history as really cyclical in terms of the intense idealism, and the desire to create a better life outside of societal norms.