A few days ago I looked at my manuscript, the title of which is now Lamentations: A Novel, and had a long talk with H about what to do next. The final part, which had exhausted me in the writing of it, and which I couldn’t seem to fix on my own.
It sounds like you want to send it, H said.
So I looked at the 500-plus paged document, changed the font and font size and made it single-spaced, thus bringing it to a reasonable length, and ordered a copy to be printed and bound to H’s exact specifications. It should make it to her on November 11, a Friday. She’ll be the first reader to absorb it in its entirety, unless Chris finishes it first, and in the meantime I can’t look at it. If I look at it I’ll see things that I want to change, down to the most minute verb changes, and what I need right now is a big-picture view.
But in the meantime, what do I do with myself.
Last night I read the entirety of Blue Nights, the Didion memoir, on the sofa when I was having insomnia and Chris was safely tucked in bed. Blue Nights is about death, mortality, loss. It is crueler than The Year of Magical Thinking. I found it necessary and frightening.
I spend far more time worrying about the death of my loved ones than my own death.
If you look at my bookshelf of most recently read books as of late, you’ll see titles like the following: Dusk, Last Night, The Getaway Car, The Runaway, Blue Nights, Last Night, Death in the Family.
It’s hard for me to find books that I believe in, lately. I want my socks to be knocked off or I don’t want to read at all. It seems selfish, perhaps, but I want the time that I spent reading Freedom back, I want the time that I spent reading (redacted) back, I want the time that I spent reading Mortals back (and Mating is one of my very favorite books). Lately I’ve been reading Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters/Seymour over and over, which is my equivalent of taking a hot bath or getting a massage. For some reason, that particular book comforts me more than any other book I know. I know that the day I don’t feel a little bit comforted by reading that book is the day that I need to check myself into the Tollhaus.
Again, what do I do with myself.
I bought an instant camera. Chris suggested that I avoid fiction altogether for a while. I’ve been having a bout of malaise about my fiction lately. Perhaps it’s post-partum from delivering Lamentations and not knowing where it’s going to go next, but my usual brio about how goddamn brilliant I am has been replaced lately by the old, eternal craving for external validation, and pretty much no amount of external validation is enough for me right now. Rejections line the walls. I hold off on sending things off because I have nothing to send, only this half-formed baby that isn’t ready to meet and greet. But back to the instant camera. Maybe it’s time to do something entirely different for a while. You may have noticed, or perhaps not, if you read this blog via RSS feed, that I pulled a little makeover.
Last night Chris and I went to see Wild Flag at the Great American Music Hall after not seeing a live show in ages, and it was beautifully nostalgic and I danced in the balcony and fell in love with Carrie all over again, but what I really wanted to see was Mary Timony, who was like some kind of rock goddess. In 1997 she had a page in SPIN magazine; she was wearing hot pink leather pants and I decided that I also wanted hot pink leather pants more than anything, because she looked so incredibly sexy and ultra-cool that it blew my 13-year-old mind. (I tried to find a picture of Mary Timony in these amazing pants to show you here, but was not successful.) She did fantastic high kicks with her long legs. I told Chris I would play him Dirt of Luck this weekend, and when he asked what Helium sounded like, I said, Magical, with no irony. Mary Timony has a magical voice.
Other things that I’ve been doing include drinking smoothies in the San Francisco winter, wearing my extra-thick leggings that enabled me to wear skirts and dresses through two Michigan winters and are just as good here, trying to make plans for two mini-residencies in the next few months.
And that is what my life is, that is how my days go by. I am trying to be my own, ever-present best friend.