Last night after solemnly swearing to myself that I would go to bed early - get a good nights sleep, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't seen my copy of Memoirs of a Beatnik in months. Maybe even years. In fact, I hadn't seen my copy of The Collected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke in a few years either. There seemed to be a lot of books missing from my bookshelf, even though the bookshelf itself was stuffed with books stacked on top of each other. Where was the Baudelaire? The Anna Akhmatova? The Amy Gerstler? The Cookie Mueller?
Of course, finding the books took precedence over sleep (it especially took precedence over the reading I was supposed to be doing)
My bedroom closet is like most bedroom closets only more so.
Scrambling to the back of the closet, climbing over an antique television and a box of outdated shoes, sifting my way between winter coats and summer skirts, I reached the back where the Mystery Boxes live and dragged them out of their slumber, groaning and stretching. The first Mystery Box contained lecture notes from first and second year University (the Hitler-Stalin Pact /Faulkner's A Rose for Emily), the second box contained my literary treasures.
I decided I needed to re-organize my bookshelves somewhere around 12:45 am.
I removed some books from the shelves that didn't need to be there, books I had read for school that had left no impression on me (The Collected Works of James Joyce,(no I'm not sorry),the Norton Anthology,The Heidi Chronicles) and replaced them with the books I read in my 20's... before I went to University to get an education.
But of course, I couldn't just put the books directly on the shelf. I sat on the floor and pulled three books at a time out of the box, roughly displacing dust with the sleeve of my sweater and opened each one:
Leonard Cohen - Parasites of Heaven
"I met Doc Dog The Pork Hound
in a clean cafeteria
All the farms of the country
were dark at that hour
I thought of wood and sleeping people
as we slurped the coffee"
Louise Erdrich - Baptism of Desire
"She will climb into your car
but not say where she is going
and you shouldn't ask"
Charles Bukowski - Mockingbird Wish me Luck
just going onSome time around 3am I sat down at the foot of my bed and surveyed my work, finally picking up The Collected Letters and read:
is a greater gut-miracle than the life-death cycle
itself, I mean
going on against uselessness -
that's different than living,
say, the way a fly lives;
the brain gives us enough light to know
that living is only an artful sacrifice
at best. at worst, it's
hogs in the sky
What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your development; you couldn't disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to question that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer.
I put that book back in the box.
I used to want to be a writer, and then I decided I couldn't write. Besides, Bukowski and Rilke both agreed that if writing doesn't feel as necessary as breathing, you shouldn't do it.
Anyway, in my late 20's and early 30's I looked outside myself and liked the view. I know Rilke was talking about looking outside for approval, not inspiration, but when I consider it now I think part of the reason I couldn't write in my 20's was because I didn't have anything to say that didn't involve my interior life. Anita Brookner is a master of the domestic novel. She could write an entire novel about an agoraphobic whose only conversation each week is with the grocery delivery boy, and it would be brilliant. I'm just not that good a writer.
But if I was going to be a writer, I would want to be the writer born of the bastard child conceived during a three-way between Anita Brookner, Fay Weldon and Charles Bukowski. In other words, in my writing there would be plenty of neurotic introspection, a sick amount of booze and sex, and a revenge driven plot.