Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I was inspired by the use of form in several issues of the "Seneca Review" and "Conjunctions" that I was reading at the time. I was also inspired by the amount of reading that I was doing. I had a story to tell, certainly, but I wasn't sure how to tell that story. I thought I would use footnotes and then tell the story later, but that never happened. So, the footnotes became annotations to something inferred, imagined, sensed, and the blank pages were born.
I don't think I consider the book to be avant-garde--my knowledge of that movement is quite limited, so my answer isn't fully researched. I wouldn't like to say that my work is this or that only because I have a hard time turning critic on myself or my work. But I do enjoy reading what others make of it.
2. Craig Dworkin's words on the back of your book say this "may or may not be a love letter, a dream, a spiritual atobiography, a memoir, a scholarly digression, a treatise on the relation of life to book." Can you shed any more light on this subject? Is THE BODY any, or a combination of any, of these things?
The quoted passage above isn't from Dworkin, actually. But it's funny that you should mention it--there's a little secret in small press publishing: a lot of jacket copy is written by the author herself, and in this case, I wrote what you've quoted above. So, yes, I feel as if the book is all of these.
3. Is THE BODY based on an actual essay that you, or someone else, have written, or is it based entirely on an idea that has never been written?
The Body is based on what was my life at the time. So it is autobiographical. I left out the actual story, of course, but I feel as if I give so much of it away in the footnotes themselves. I feel as if I've given the right clues and that the astute reader will reconstruct the narrative.
4. What were your thoughts and feelings while writing The Body? Was writing in this style challenging?
The style wasn't challenging, but having to live within a certain "mode" or "tone" was a challenge. You want to wake up and believe that everything is behind you, but you can't quite shake it yet because the book has yet to be written. I was undergoing a change in place, and I was quite lonely and feeling all sorts of out of sorts. I had a few mementos, some letters, and a lot of emptiness. In some ways, that is what The Body is composed of.
5. What do you hope the reader takes away from this work?
I hope the reader takes away the story of a failed love affair, but I also hope that they take away whatever story they constructed, that story they read between the lines--that is, I hope they take away faith in something living in the in-between.
6. What are your impressions of other avant-garde writers and how do you feel this book contributes to the genre and other's understanding of it?
I'm not sure I entirely understand the avant-garde movement or what that entails, never having taken a class or studied it. My reluctance to answer this question has more to do with my ignorance on the subject. I hope you will understand that. Perhaps if I had more time to research I could answer more intelligently.
7. How do you feel about style and its impact on a piece as a whole? Does the style used "make" the piece, or does it simply add to the overall message/impact of the book?
I have always firmly believed--despite what some critics have said in some reviews--that The Body could only exist in the form it is in. The subtext and the text can then be one, so yes, the form is entirely co-dependent on its content. Or maybe what I mean is that the form is content and I couldn't have left it out.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
CM: I think it is that at times, but the book really feels elusive to me, just outside my grasp and not easily stabilized by a phrase—even one of my own
2)Another note written was that "blanks are described as the air you breathe between phrases." Obviously, you are an advocate of spatial movement in literature and in novel. What are exactly are you feel i n gs toward such a p r o g r e s s i v eand avant concept? Do you recommend all young writers try it? Do you feel that this element is a very misused element?
CM:I think any given text has to find its own way to the page, and that look, or arrangement or configuration as much as any other component, is the story. It’s not an arbitrary thing, but it often takes a lot of experimentation to know and understand what space on a page is about, what it might do, what the potentials are. This is well worth playing with in exercises, so that one feels free and open to those potentialialities in a realized work of art. 3)The greatest thing above Ava is its random nature. But for you the writer, this is obvious all by your devilish design. How did you organize the random nature of Ava's final day and hours? Is Ava more or less adopting your stream of consciousness and mental exercise as you explore the full of life of Ava or do you say I will divulge this memory and not evolve it to here and jump here and oh yeah we'll move back to this place? Simply, how do you organize the random?
CM: AVA was written in a trance, informed utterly by music, and the sorrow and joy of watching a close friend in hhis last months of life. It was written without conscious decision making, it was written freely and only after it was finished, was it reworked slightly to make certain rhythms or patterns more emphatic. It was arranged largely by intuition and a sort of intelligence that feels quite beyond me.4) When researching for this interview, I came upon an analysis of your text in comparison to the discussion of Massachusetts poet Mary Ruefle's discussion and definition of the semi-colon. I can see the comparison of your text and the concept of the semi-colon, "which connects the first line to the last, the act of keeping together that whose nature is to fly apart." Do you see your novel as such? And if your novel is one very, very, very, long sentence line, can we coin your book a novel? (I can and will, but I love to hear your thoughts.)
CM: I don’t know that semi-colon discussion you are referring to, but I don’t see the book as trying to keep together things that are flying apart. It seems to suggest a kind of argument for unity or wholeness I am not sure the book actually adheres to. I don’t see it as one very long sentence—if I thought that was they what it really was, I would have written it that way.
5) Without a doubt, this book brilliantly challenges literary conventions on multiple levels. Did you feel like you were taking a risk by writing "Ava"? If so, what do you think is the biggest risk in writing such a unique novel? What most inspired you to do it?
I was bored by every novel I picked up. Nothing I could see seemed to have anything at all to do with how I moved through the world or how I perceived it. How the figures in my world appeared to me. The ways my mind and heart and body move. It did not feel like a risk to write. I just wanted to get closer to what it was like for me to be alive. To have written in the other old formulaic would have been much more difficult a task and would have in a strange way been to die a little, and I did not want to die anymore.6) There are tons of references to literature, writing literature, authors - Virginia Woolf, Neruda, Garcia Lorca, etc...- , but there seems to also be a focus on film as well - conversations about film and/or filmmakers, and Francesco being a filmmaker, and the book is extremely visual at times. I was wondering, how did film play a part in your writing "Ava"? (If it did play a part) Is the style or structure at all influenced by any particular filmmaking techniques?
CM: I am a film addict. I feel film can do some things far more effortlessly and elegantly than other mediums. I love it. Great films are a constant source of inspiration. 7) What do you hope the reader will get out of this book? If you could choose one thing above all else...?
CM: The intense beauty and mystery of a human life.
8) What cord did hope to strike within your readers by writing in such a distinct format?
CM: A sense of wonder at that beauty and mystery. A sense of possibility and the dimensions of joy.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I thought of the one-sentence form first, in part as a respite from
the fractured/fragmented book I was then working on (La Medusa, which
will be published by FC2 this Fall)(the challenge of the fragmented text
is to keep it together without it coalescing, like an Impressionist
painting; the challenge of the single sentence is to keep it falling
apart while continuing its momentum, like an Abstract Expressionist
action painting), and in part as a way of challenging the fundamental
unit of prose -- the sentence. (The title is a multiple pun, one being
the death of the sentence.) Having thought of the form, content was
next, and the sentence (as in fate/punishment) of humanity appears to be
endless war. Or time ongoing punctuated by particularly bloody periods.
2. Did you have any influence on the unique design of the book?
Some influence; I am one of the co-directors of Les Figues Press, and
we envisioned the long/lean design of the series as a series. (See
www.lesfigues.com) However, I was lucky in that the design mirrored the
trenches of WWI and the long bloody rut of war as a specific form of
human existence, and existence, pocked with story and tragedy, in its
human form. We are vertical creatures.
3. You've included many French phrases. What is the significance?
Many French phrases, yes, many other languages as well (German, a
touch of Vietnamese). The easy answer is that I know French next best to
English, and can do more by way of punning, riffing, etc, with French
than other languages. Also it was very important to not have this be
particularly locatable as a nationality, and French, like English, has
the (Western historical) reputation of being an international language,
and the language of the Empire/colonizer. In terms of nonspecificity,
note the mutation of the name John in this regard, so the Doe aspects of
John should become more pointed as the sentence moves on.
4. What is the significance of the soldier's boots, and what are the different places the boots take us back to?
It is a journey story, or allegory; the errant hero must be able to
move, yes? What happens when you take away his boots? I can't recall all
the places the boots go, but believe that there is an ironical movement
in having the footwear go farther than the foot (now blown to
smithereens), just as the commercial product transcends its consumer,
who loves the product much more than the product cares for its
purchaser, just as the things of life outlive, and thereby own, their
owners. Too, I am playing with the Irish tradition of the amputated
anti-hero (Beckett, O'Brien). And the unspeaking John has no hands, no
mitts or mittens, and can thereby signal nothing. Between them, they've
been fully ravished, and ravishment is a trope that suggests ecstasy
(transcendence) and rape. The speaking in tongues of the saved and the
silence of the damned.
5. Does the book take place during one time period, or is the narrator shifting to various time periods?
Shifting time periods, no time period, note shifting verb tenses in
certain scenes, so time is circular, a conceit.
6. What was most challenging about writing this book for you?
It was an oddly easy book to write, the greatest challenge perhaps
being the need to backstitch, to use certain words or images repeatedly
in order to keep a constant thread and the feeling of ongoingness in a
book where no one moves and nothing changes.
7. If you had to choose what category to place this book in a library, what section would you put it under (poetry, fiction, etc - assuming "long sentence" is not a category!)?
That is the question. There is prose, and poetry, and I've been
called both and neither is the whole story. I'm working on an essay on
post-conceptual writing with appropriation poet Robert Fitterman (to be
published by Ugly Duckling Presse), and perhaps this is the point where
we realize genre is a medium (like oil paint) and start to look at
writing the way people look at art -- classifying by type sometimes,
like sculpture, and period others, like Constructivism. You could think
about what you would put on the shelf next to it instead. I know that
in one class it was taught in conjunction with The Waste Land, and in
another, The Inferno. What do you think?
-Megan Stokes, Becky Slinger, Meghan Corcoran, and Jody Brezette
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I DON'T ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN DICTATING TO A READER "HOW" THEY SHOULD READ...INSTEAD, I CONCENTRATE ON CREATING WRITERLY TEXTS (SEE ROLAND BARTHES), IN WHICH THE READER CAN TAKE PLEASURE IN THEIR ACT OF READING, MULTIPLY MEANINGS AND TRY DIFFERENT STRATEGIES. SO THAT THE ACT OF READINGS IS AS ACTIVE AS THE ACT OF WRITING. KNOW WHAT I MEAN?IN THE CASE OF SCRIPTED, I WAS VERY INTERESTED IN THREE THINGS:
1. HOW IT IS THAT OUR "INDIVIDUALISM" IS UNDERCUT BY A RATHER LIMITED SET OF ALREADY KNOWN DRAMAS
2. HOW POINT OF VIEW IS STRUCTURED--HOW TAKING IT APART INSTEAD OF ASSUMING ITS STABILITY IS INTERESTING
3. HOW "VOICES" ARE ALWAYS CROSSING ONE ANOTHER
2. Why does scotch come up so frequently in these stories? (kind of dumb question, i know.) Is there a reason for the consumption of a specific alcohol?
HEH. IT'S WHAT I DRINK.
BUT I ALSO TEND TO AGREE WITH MARGUERITE DURAS--THE THINGS SHE SAYS ABOUT WOMEN WHO DRINK AND CREATE ART...THE WORLD FINDS THAT FAIRLY DISTASTEFUL IN A WOMAN. BUT IN A MAN, IT'S PART OF THE CULT OF THE MALE GENIUS ARTIST, PART OF HIS CREATIVE AURA.
SECONDLY, I LIKE TO PEPPER MY STORIES WITH ALCOHOL AND DRUGS IN AN "AMERICAN" SENSE. THEY ARE PART OF THE STORY. MY STORY. THE STORY OF THE AMERICAN ARTIST, TOO.
3. Is there a certain character or voice (a.k.a. narrator) that exists throughout this collection as a whole? Is the character male or female? Does it matter if the reader identifies the narrator as male or female? (We've observed that at points, there is an enmeshing of gender, such as on page 76.) What role does sexuality, and perhaps homesexuality play in this collection?
PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WRITTEN STRUGGLES (SOMETIMES TOO HARD, I THINK) TO BLUR THE LINES BETWEEN SEXUALITIES AND SUBJECTIVITIES. I'VE NEVER BEEN CONVINCED BY CATEGORIES OF GENDER OR SEXUALITY. MY EXPERIENCES ARE NOT HOUSED WELL INSIDE THE AVAILABLE TERMS, YOU KNOW? SO I TRY TO EITHER ABANDON THE, OR TRANSGRESS THEM, OR CROSS BACK AND FORTH VIA WRITING. NO, THERE IS NOT AN OVERIDING MONO-VOICE THAT TRAVELS THROUGH THE STORIES, ON THE OTHER HAND, I HAVE TRIED TO CREATE A SENSE OF "HETEROGLOSSIA" (M. M. BAKHTIN), A MULTI-VOCALITY THAT EMPHASIZES HOW THE VOICES OF THE MANY ARE ALWAYS SPEAKING, RATHER THAN THE VOICE OF THE ONE, ALL-POWERFUL AUTHOR.
I ALLOW THE AUTHOR VOICE IN AND OUT AT RANDOM IN ORDER TO UNDERCUT THE AUTHOR'S POWER AND DEMOCRATIZE THEIR VOICE AMONG MANY.
4. Your prose seems to present the body as a symbol of humanity or humanness, is this correct? Or are the references to the body symbolic of sexuality? Or perhaps both? In other words, what role does the body play in your prose? (And furthermore, is it different in different stories?)
BINGO ON BOTH. IN MOST OF MY WRITING I TRY TO PRESENT THE BODY AS THREE THINGS:
1. THE CORPOREAL FACT OF EXISTENCE
2. THE PRIMARY METAPHOR FOR EXPERIENCE
3. THE PSYCHO-SEXUAL "SITE" WHERE ALL MEANING IS MADE AND UNMADE.
5. Do you view this collection as a novel, in its entirety? Can the stories be read as one story? Or should they be viewed as single stories?
THAT'S A COOL QUESTION. I THINK THAT YES, THE STORIES CAN BE READ AS ONE STORY--IN THIS CASE THE SINGLE PSYCHE OF A WOMAN WITH ALL HER VOICES, ALL HER EXPERIENCES, HER PAST, HER PRESENT, HER BODY IN ALL ITS STAGES, HER PSYCHE BROKEN INTO PARTS, THE CHAPTERS OF HER BEING--IT CAN BE READ THAT WAY.
BUT I ALSO THINK THERE IS MERIT IN READING THEM AS STAND ALONES. THE WAY A SINGLE DAY CAN MARK SOMEONE FOR LIFE. OR THE WAY A CERTAIN YEAR CAN CHANGE A PERSON FOREVER. THE "SPACE" OF THE SHORT STORY ALLOWS FOR THAT KIND OF POTENCY. DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
6. The story "Chair" makes several references to childhood. How much do your own childhood experiences influence your writing as an adult?
MEGA. I MEAN HUGE. I CAME FROM AN ABUSIVE FAMILY, I HAD A DAUGHTER WHO DIED, MY CHILDHOOD AND CHILD ISSUES RUN UP AND THROUGH EVERYTHING. TO A CERTAIN EXTENT I THINK WOMEN WRITERS--EVEN THE ONES WHO HAVE NEVER HAD CHILDREN--CARRY THE TRACE OF THE CHILD IN ALL OF THEIR WRITING. I THINK OUR BODIES ARE THE REASON. I DON'T REALLY SEE MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BIOGRAPHIC REALITY AND FICTION. I THINK EVEN OUR "REAL" STORIES OF OURSELVES ARE FICTIONS, AND I THINK SOMETIMES FICTION GETS CLOSER TO A PERSONAL "TRUTH" THAN ANYTHING ELSE...
7. Film wiggles its way from title to sentence and word to page space. It is clearly an important realm of your writing. Why film? What do you get from film? And trite and simple (and you know it was coming,) what is your favorite film?
WELL, FILM IS THE DOMINANT MODE OF ARTISTIC PRODUCTION IN MY LIFETIME, SO IT HAS PERMEATED MY ENTIRE LIFE. IN ADDITION, I FELL IN LOVE WITH FILM WAY BEFORE I FELL IN LOVE WITH ANY HUMANS...THE FIRST FILMS I EVER SAW CHANGED MY REALITY FOREVER. LASTLY, I THINK THE STRUCTURE OF FILM AND THE STRUCTURE OF FICTION ARE INTIMATELY INTERTWINED, AND I LOVE TO "PLAY" IN BETWEEN. OH AND MY HUSBAND IS A FILMMAKER. HEH.
8. We have a whole chapter based and entitled off the color blue. Blonde folk pervade much of the text as well. Are you fan of the Aryan race--or what is the more, non-fascist reasoning behind these specific fixations?
THIS CRACKED ME UP A LITTLE BIT. A FAN OF THE ARYAN RACE? HA. OK SO FIRST OF ALL, I AM A BLONDE, SO THERE'S THAT. BUT "THE BLONDE" IS AN ICON IN AMERICAN CULTURE--SO I HAVE USED IT METAPHORICALLY AND SYMBOLICALLY TO POINT TO THAT. IF THERE IS ANYTHING FASCISTIC ABOUT "THE BLONDE," IT'S AN AMERICAN FASCISM--OUR SADISTIC COMPULSION TO LOVE THE BLONDE (THINK MARILYN MONROE, PARIS HILTON, ETC. ETC..). SO "THE BLONDE" IS AN AMERICAN PATHOLOGY, ON THE ONE HAND, AND I'VE LIVED A BLONDE LIFE THAT WAS AT ODDS WITH THAT NARRATIVE, ON THE OTHER.
9. Can we have you etch out the significance of structure and meaning of "Chair?" It is such a rich text and way too complex for us without your guidance. (I SERIOUSLY DOUBT THAT...HA.) The conclusion of the chapter incorporates different perspectives and usages of the chair; we find this very interesting. The paragraph that follows is quite memorable as well. Also, the lives of the chairs are divine, like on page 78 paragraph "To life the chairs." I love it; it feels brilliant. Lidia, tell me what it all means. Grazie.
WELL A GREAT DEAL IS REVEALED BY THE OPENING QUOTE--ABOUT THE MEANINGS OF THINGS. AND A DICTIONARY, SAY, LIMITS THE MEANINGS OF THINGS--INSCRIBES THEM INSIDE THE PRISONHOUSE OF LANGUAGE. NARRATIVE, ON THE OTHER HAND, RELEASES MEANING BACK OUT OVER A VAST TERRITORY OF SIGNS AND IMAGINATION AND EMOTION. SO TAKING A SINGLE WORD LIKE "CHAIR," AND LIBERATING IT, IS A RADICAL ACT. SO THERE'S THAT.
SECONDLY, I WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT INCEST IN A WAY THAT "RELEASED" IT FROM THE DREADED CONFESSIONAL MODE SO MANY WOMEN HAVE EMPLOYED. THIS WAS MY SOLUTION--TO ENTER THE AESTHETICS OF ART AND REPRESENTATION, AND THE MOTION OF MEMORY (HOW IT'S MADE, UNMADE, REMADE LIKE IN FILMMAKING), TO TELL A SMALL TRUTH.
10. The idea of "wanting" and consumption seems to be another important link between the stories (the we read) from the collection. What do these elements have to do with the current state of the human condition? Are you making a social statement that we (as readers) should be aware of? (We think we are on to something here, but we just want a little bit more info.)
YUP.THE "WANTING" AND "CONSUMPTION" YOU ARE SO ASTUTELY NOTICING IS SOMETHING I CARE ABOUT A LOT--IT TAPS INTO A BIG QUESTION I HAVE AS AN AMERICAN WRITER AND ARTIST--WHICH IS, HOW DOES ONE "MAKE" IN THE FACE OF CAPITALISM? HOW DOES ONE REACH A READER WHO IS MORE AND MORE A CONSUMER AND LESS AND LESS A RADICAL AND ACTIVE LOVER WITH THE WRITER OF A TEXT?
GREAT QUESTIONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING MY WRITING. IT IS VERY MEANINGFUL TO ME TO HAVE MET YOU THERE, INSIDE WORDS, WHERE WE MIGHT TOUCH WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OR RULES OF THE WORLD.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
As I thought more and more aboout the book, I realized that because it was very vague in description and because every sentence had a significant meaning, it is hard to be precise on why we enjoyed this read. How is a reader able to generize the experience in reading this book, when it was clear in class that everyone had their own pages of enjoyment? How were we able to say that we favored pg 22 in comparision to 174, but we got more out of the book on pg 150?
In my opinion, I felt that I enjoyed this book, because it was so random. Ava was going to die, and she wrote exactly what she thought. So, in other words I myself got a lot out of the book, and still find it extremely diffacult to articulate why. The only thing I could honestly come up with, is that it is a more positive book with huge amounts of passions on each page.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Federico Garcia Lorca (~1927)
Green, how much I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship upon the sea
and the horse in the mountain.
With the shadow on her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, hair of green,
and eyes of cold silver.
Green, how much I want you green.
Beneath the gypsy moon,
all things look at her
but she cannot see them.
Green, how much I want you green.
Great stars of white frost
come with the fish of darkness
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs the wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the mountain, a filching cat,
bristles its bitter aloes.
But who will come? And from where?
She lingers on her balcony,
green flesh, hair of green,
dreaming of the bitter sea.
--Friend, I want to change
my horse for your house,
my saddle for your mirror,
my knife for your blanket.
Friend, I come bleeding,
from the passes of Cabra.
--If I could, young man, this pact would be sealed.
But I am no more I,
nor is my house now my house.
--Friend, I want to die
decently in my bed.
Of iron, if it be possible,
with sheets of fine holland.
Do you not see the would I have
from my breast to my throat?
--Your white shirt bears
three hundred dark roses.
Your pungent blood oozes
around your sash.
But I am no more I,
nor is my house now my house.
--Let me climb at least
up to the high balustrades:
let me come! Let me come!
up to the green balustrades.
Balustrades of the moon
where the water resounds.
Now the two friends go up
towards the high balustrades.
Leaving a trail of blood,
leaving a trail of tears.
Small lanterns of tin
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines
were piercing the dawn.
Green, how much I want you green,
green wind, green branches.
The two friends went up.
The long wind was leaving
in the mouth a strange taste
of gall, mint and sweet-basil.
Friend! Where is she, tell me,
where is your bitter girl?
How often she waited for you!
How often did she wait for you,
cool face, black hair,
on this green balcony!
Over the face of the cistern
the gypsy girl swayed.
Green flesh, hair of green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of the moon
suspends her above the water.
The might became as intimate
as a little square.
Drunken civil guards
were knocking at the door.
Green, how much I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship upon the sea.
And the horse on the mountain.
(trans. Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili)
Sunday, February 10, 2008
When it came to the book AVA, all I have to say is that I just could not put it down. It took a awhile to get use to the one line sentences, but after a couple pages I was able to get in the rhythm. It was simple, fun, and poetic at the same time. One of my favorite lines, had to have been on page 241 which is a small poem that startes off wiht "The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind....."
As I continued to read this book I honestly put myself in the postion of not having many days on earth and what I would do if I were to have been Ava. The read was more personal for me than anything else, and I am glad to have read it!
Saturday, February 9, 2008
2. What is the significance of how you divided the chapters?
Each of the chapters chronicles (without doing so "exactly") another phase of the situation, and each of those phases, or so it felt to me, required its own formal qualities, since the situational qualities were also shifting. I also have a thing for the numbers 8 and 3. Those came up again.
3. Where did you get the idea to write in this form? Did you have any influences?
Poets. Poets, poets, poets. I think at some point I discovered that other people, like Laura Mullen or Thalia Field, were doing work like this, but to my disappointment it was often labeled "poetry." I continue to find this unfortunate for those of us who call or think of ourselves as prose writers (and I'm not saying that Mullen or Field do, but I've seen the phenomenon with fair frequency), because it continues to thwart the development of literacy for this kind of challenge of the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, and so on. Prose readers need and deserve a wider ability to read and appreciate language.
4. What are the purposes of the changes in point of view, which sometimes come in the middle of sections?
I don't really respect the notion of a self. I do, of course; in practice one has to identify oneself as different from the world in a specific way; but I don't in the way that people tend to take it for granted. The self I am at this second will be different in about thirty seconds (and counting). That and, to be utterly frank with you, some of it just "came out that way," and finally what I discovered was that, when talking about especially painful circumstances, third-person or second-person or the Royal We or just anything but first-person-singular is waaaay easier to handle than...first-person-singular. It creates a distance for the reader as well as, blessedly, for the writer. In the sequel to this book, _The Adventurous_, I change "persons" much more purposefully, I think. I do it in both but I think in the second one I was more ready to see the distancing impulse and know it for what it was, and when I switch to third it's more likely to be completely because I damn well wanted to challenge that selfhood thing I made up in the above.
5. What is the significance of the cover image? Why does this best represent the book?
It's rather stunning, eh? Quite the best thing about the book. The painting itself probably goes for many thousands of dollars and I always tell people to frame the book and hang it on their walls. Two items about the painting: one is that it was done by a dear friend, and it's always lovely to have such collaborative senses about things; and the other is that the bird, although likely not precisely an accidental species, seemed---being pinned down as it was---and the drops looking something like tears, vaporous regret if you will---it seemed more expressive than the damn book, actually. A picture paints 1000, etc. I'm pretty sure that my use of it has nothing to do with the painter's conception, although she was wonderfully generous to give it to me for the book. Maria Tomasula's work often used (past tense because it does so less often now I think) images that suggest Christlike martyrdom---being tied down in one way or another. I don't see this woman as a martyr, although she's occasionally a victim. She's had too much complicity in her own situation to qualify.
6. There seems to be a theme of death in the book (death in childbirth, the car accident). Please explain the significance.
Well, you know, to be honest with you, we're all going to die. This has obsessed me since I was five. I think it's an utterly absurd circumstance and can't imagine why things have to be that way---but such they are.
8. There seemed to be a theme between love/pain of writing and physical love. Can you elaborate?
It gets worse in _The Adventurous_. I don't know what to say about that, really, but I'll make some noise here now that if I'm lucky may sound like I'm "answering." While I can imagine people loving only with their eyes or their hands or their noses, for me beauty has to do with the truth a person articulates through their language, and that language is frequently not syntactic language. When most of us try to say who we are, we become ridiculous, linguistically speaking. This is part of my concern: syntactic language can be so stultifying to the location of beauty in language, and it's also (in a post-orality world) the primary means of attempts to be beautiful (to love/be loved). I hope there's enough noise in that for you. It's funny how you can set out to exploit what language is capable of when it's released (unpinned) from syntax---and then end up unable to say, syntactically, what about that is so fabulous.
9. Is there anything you would like us to tell the class about the book?
I tell you all this: no matter what you think of it, I thank you greatly for reading it. Please thank your professor for putting it before you.
-Erin Brady, Kelly Maus, Joan Corcoran and Becky Slinger
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Throughout the rest of the book, she captivates using varying structure of her sentences and seemingly random word choices in order to create an overall meaning. One of my favorite parts was when she somewhat mocks the traditional structure of a novel, saying: "In the beginning-- she said, relinquishing herself to our cultural need to establish endpoints and origins over and over... (Fleisher 47)" It is in this manner that she continues to question and ridicule a traditional and accepted form of the novel and creates her own version in a book that I thought was amazing and thought-provoking.