Tag Archives: lauren grodstein

On reading…well

I’ve started reading grad stories/submissions for the Writers Conference and praise be ta Jesus, I found two really good, inspiring  short stories in the batch. I’d rather not post names, lest I offend anyone, but i will say that both submissions had a very strong voice, I was able to visualize their characters and the story lines were both simple and direct. There are probably only three, maybe four students whose work inspires me. I find that number shockingly low for a grad program. But then again, that is based on personal taste. I’m sure there are other writers in the program whose work is admired by a group of their peers.

At any rate, I’m relatively pleased with my submission (Fertility) although my biggest fear is that the main character “Elaine” is not clear enough and the story line is not smooth enough. Is there enough build up from the point she becomes annoyed with this woman and her bag to the point where she plans to attack her? Is it believable? Is her personality consistent? Do I ramble too much?

What I really liked about these pieces I read last night was their consistency and creative twist- where their story lines went. I often feel my topics are not creative enough, my vocabulary or the way I put words together is not strong enough, and that I lose my way in a piece. It’s very hard for me to maintain the same voice throughout a piece, especially when i go back and edit and interject new stuff.

But Lauren Grodstein said something very important last semester: If you’re not writing well, you’re not reading the right stuff. And it’s so true. I feel as though I have not found anyone since Annie Dillard that inspires my own voice. The trouble is making time. My list of responsibilities is long: take care of kids, earn my paycheck, manage household, train for triathlon, read grad submissions, write my own stuff, revise, plan trip to Spain, spend time with D, time with family, friends, and so on. Corners have to be cut. For now, it’s reading good stuff- if and when I find it. Until then, I will continue shuffling through graduate work in hopes of finding a gem.

Tragedy

What was it that Elaine and George Costanza concluded about men’s and women’s brains and sex? That men can think much clearer when they’re not having it and women can think much clearer when they are?

Bullshit. Or, I’m loaded with too much testosterone.

Since D, my brain has turned to mush. Literally, it produces nothing but sappy cliches. Too horrible to ever post.

It’s not that I’m thinking less- through the mush I am still having deep thoughts. It’s that I can’t seem to hold on to them long enough to get them on to paper. Or perhaps, it’s just that I could care less. The thought of D going down on me is far more thrilling than any pontificating I could do about anything else I seem to come up with during leaner times.

And it’s not that I am not busy or physically doing less either. My life has changed little in that respect. I’m still running, still reading Grodstein’s book and Spinning Will, still chatting up an intellectual storm with KVM and D and whoever else. But again, thoughts of lust and sex and all that fun stuff have pushed out whatever else might have had the chance to form and grow. And I am left with the “duh” effect. The sad truth is that the overpowering stranglehold of lush, abundant love is growing in my soul like a weed and taking over. And I am slowly being destroyed.

Need…to….step…back….Need…to…reclaim…my….soul…

What a tragedy.

And speaking of tragedy, last night I went to see Daniel Mendelsohn read from his book “The Lost” at Rutgers in Camden. The reading itself was no tragedy. Mendelsohn was an excellent reader. The dinner was great. I shmoozed with Lauren Grodstein and Lisa Zeidner and a few others. I had the lovely D by my side. Etc. Etc. What summoned the idea of tragedy was Mendelsohn’s masterful comment on why classical Greek literature is so important to him. “The Greeks understood tragedy,” he said. And went on to add that we have done ourselves a huge disservice by not accepting pain and suffering in life. We take pills to erase our pain. We go to therapy for constant awareness and answers (even he claims 16 some years of analysis). We file lawsuits– all in the hopes of regaining some sort of restitution or peace. We are always looking for compensation for the bad things that happen in life. We want constant pleasure. Constant and perfection producing. This is pure silliness, of course. There is no guarantee that you will be “healed” or repaid or repaired for the suffering you incur. There is no life without pain.

I, of course, applauded his sentiments. I too, believe we have become culturally dependent on the notion that happiness is a right, not, as it were, a privilege. Or perhaps, more likely, that those who are happy are merely lucky.

I have worked a great deal over the past year with very depressed individuals, women mostly, addicted to one thing or another. Almost all of them hit bottom and come to recovery angry and self-loathing, and in pain, wanting to be healed, wanting answers, wanting desperately for the pain to stop. And yet, only a small fraction of them are able to grasp the concept that pain and tragedy happens. That the idea of recovery is not to avoid pain, but rather to deal with it. We have very little control over the suffering that befalls us. Most of these women want to live a Hollywood movie. They honestly believe that that is what a “normal” life looks like.

Professor Tim Martin (English, Rutgers) came up to me last night and congratulated me on having been accepted to the MFA program. “You must be quite talented,” he said. I felt like a fraud, especially considering that I have written so poorly over the past few weeks. I felt like saying, little do you know that my brain has turned to split pea soup and I will produce little or nothing for the Rutgers English department. But I nodded a thank you. Some where deep inside me I am grateful for the opportunity, believe me. And there is a tenth of a part of me that believes I am somewhat talented, if only I worked a little harder for it.

So, Tim shook my hand once more and went on his way.  Moments later there was a pause. D and I stood finishing up the last of our Cabernet before heading out. I pulled him close into me and whispered in his ear, “how many of these folks do you think are going to go home tonight and get laid like us?”