But Steve is quite right in that part of my inspiration for O Fallen Angel (as well as the essay) is what he calls my (our) panopticonic childhood. My mother did watch over me incessantly, I always had guards at my door, every day after school the schoolbag on the kitchen counter, she went through every paper. I write about this in Book of Mutter, especially in the section entitled "Weather Reports," which also deals heavily with Henry Darger's childhood, as well as his journals. My mother named Gale, a gale and a gael. So much pressure, to be good, to be succeed, until of course I imploded (now I prefer to explode).
This is what Steve writes:
As for the issue's content, I was drawn immediately to Kate Zambreno's nonfiction piece "Slapping Clark Gable." I'd been following Kate's blog Frances Farmer is My Sister for a while (especially interested in her theory of anorexic and bulimic writing) and connected with her at the AWP (the Les Figues/Chiasmus/Fairy Tale Review readings at Thin Man in Denver was worth the trip alone and Zambreno's reading mesmerized me: raw and invested in themes my work returns to like religion and sexuality).
"Slapping Clark Gable" is nonfiction in the lineage of confessional writing (see especially Plath) and excess, informed by Zambreno's fave theorists like Artaud, Bataille, etc. It is bald, sexual, shockingly honest:
Although I would be a virgin until twenty, I began masturbating furiously at a young age. I would lie on my belly and rub my fingers against my underwear. I needed friction to get off (still do). I know what you're doing, my mother once said from the foot of the stairs as I pretended to watch TV. This best sums up the exchanges I had with my mother about sex. The implication of surveillance, the undertones of guilt.
After the aforementioned reading at AWP, I told Kate in passing that she was my unofficial autobiographer, based on the excerpt she read from her Chiasmus novel O Fallen Angel. Devouring passages like the above on the plane home from Denver just reiterated that compliment. Although my parents were not quite as panopticonic as Zambreno's mother described above, I felt the pressure to behave (whatever that means) and succeed (whatever that means), which are as much about my Catholic upbringing as a dissonant counterpoint to my own oxymoronic flaw of perfectionism. Zambreno captures these notes perfectly here, hinting at the roots of her attraction to the taboo, to stoically brutal lovers. I think of my own attractions to junk, ruin(s), tabloids, and garbage. A great read.