Monday, April 19, 2010

Reading Alix's Journal

I don't think I really understood what it meant to be stopped truly stopped until recently. Or perhaps that is the convenience of amnesia, we forget when we can't write we forget because we didn't write it down. I have always been interested in this - what is not written. Women particularly. Periods when we cannot write. Blanks filled up by not living. Or living on our islands of silence. The disease of Virginia Woolf. An anorexia, yes. Complete intellectual paralysis in the wake of readings every weekend. My life tastes metallic and fraudulent. I cannot eat coax down even salads. Only if it's hot spicy tangy. Like Anna O. needs to go to a Mexican restaurant.This is boring. Apologies. This is to say that I read a book and I would like to write about it, or at least gesture towards it, but I won't be able to eek out any exposition or "This book is about" or any of that.

Alix's Journal by Alix Cleo Roubaud, who apparently is the wife of a famous guy who I've never heard of because I do not brag at dinner parties that I am particularly well read, especially since I do not attend dinner parties as I'm rarely asked. Dalkey sent it to me. Pink and green. Thank you Dalkey. I like to imagine in my alienation that someone at Dalkey thought - Kate Z. would like this, this fits in perfectly with her obsessions - and then they sent it to me. There are people who I know have to read this, and they are the readers of this blog. The book is marvelous and the ideas about what kind of book this is, and what it means, this sort of book being published.

everything that I've written makes me puke. all these I's.

It is a notebook kept by a famous literary wife who scribbled but did not consider herself a writer (what does it mean to be a writer?) and took photographs, mostly naked self-portraits. A writer who died young (had terrible asthma, a lung condition, I have just read Clement's Syncope, flipped through, Clement who writes of asthma as this temporary annihilation, like Doestoevsky's epilepsy). The book is a series of her notebooks, specific, the colors (the orange one, the Italian blue one). She was the much younger wife of a "genius". She addressed so many of her fragments to him but apparently he never read it until she died.
I deserve death.
I deserve death, stupid, uselessly in love. You will see me dead Jacques Roubaud. They will come looking for you. You will identify my corpse.

She wrote of the impossibility of writing. Meditations on photography. Drug use. Suicide attempts.  Dreams. Aphorisms. Strange punctuations. Who wrote in French and English and felt alien in both. A promise like the beginning of Sartre's Nausea, a fiction notebook:

Of all the attempted divisons: English/French; prose/non-prose; photo/journal; none of them works. Only one rule: always have a notebook and write in it almost every day: everything; despite everything; include everything: the simplest of resolutions; stop smoking..., incidents, photographs, everything.

Oh my wives how I adore you. Your secretions in secret because you can never be author. The notebook Jane Bowles kept for 30 years, her fragments trapped. Zelda's pirated diaries. Vivienne's journals mouldering in the basement of the Bodleian. Virginia oh the flames of Virginia Woolf. She who wrotes of "VW's" last letter:

Upon reading an account of V.W.'s last leter, an uncomfortable fact dawned on me. When one whrites to one's husband that he was always good to you, there may be other motivations for praise, especially in trying and tried states of mind, than the simple desire to state the truth.

And Monsieur Roubaud writes the preface, something so patriarchial about it in a way, the question, what really kept her from being an author? She writes to him "O darling I'm a wreck."

And this work links to another famous wife, Elizabeth Hardwick, wife and helpmate to Robert Lowell, "Lizzie" in "The Dolphin," who writes in her essay on Scott and Zelda that only one of a dyad can be real as an artist.

Not writing because I'm not alone. the reflex of someone in hiding.

Myself in a holding pen holding a pen. Self-devouring.

Alix Roubaud who writes out of a compulsion, a writer in secret. The book published with letter inserts and photographs. A Nadja in reverse, or better, Mad Love, as that was about Jacqueline Lamba, Breton's wife not his mistress.

I am going to keep this alive year after year as if it were my negative essence.