Thursday, October 14, 2010

it is the theatrical comeback in broad day

Yesterday I went to the Walgreen's off Market Street twice. The first time I went to get lightbulbs, but I didn't actually get lightbulbs. Instead I got the Vanity Fair that promised Marilyn Monroe's secret diary, I don't buy magazines normally but this was the perfect subject to me, that I have been reflecting on lately, especially the idea of the public (celebrity) and then the private (writer), specifically with Marilyn I have been obsessed with the idea of Marilyn as a secret writer/reader for a while,  a sort of Molly Bloom, and wrote a piece about her reimagining the lost tapes of her therapist's appointment, but it was really horrid, that whole collection dealing with celebrity was, it is an idea that still haunts me, these women-writers, and by writers I mean thinkers, and by not-writers I mean characters, so conceived in the public, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Veronica Lake, Vivien Leigh, Frances Farmer, Gene Tierney. Some who unraveled when they were in public, through this divided self, these two selves, the public and the private and the inability to cohere into one self, and some who unraveled once they stopped being in public (Clara Bow, Veronica Lake, Marie Provost). Also at the Walgreen's I got generic sinus medication and allergy medicine. Then I went to the Walgreen's again later on  because I forgot to get lightbulbs, we recently got fluorescent bulbs in our vanity and they are 60W and they are much too bright. So bright that in the morning before teaching I blink and see gray hairs I don't want to see, white scalp peeking through the fine bird hair, wrinkles in the morning and dark circles. I cannot bear this much reality, so I wanted to get lower watt lightbulbs, preferably soft glow, like the kind Barbara Walters has shining on her during her 20/20 specials. Plus my father is coming to visit, and we're getting ready for him, and it's the first time my father has ever stayed with us, and it's unpleasant to live under such a glare. This is seeming quite allegorical and I don't know what to make of it.

So I ask John - tell me exactly what to get. And he says 40W. But he doesn't specify that I am supposed to get VANITY bulbs, which I know I am supposed to know, but I never know the things one is supposed to know, I was and still am at times very very slow, and so I don't get the right ones, I just get a bunch of wrong-sized bulbs, and now they're in a bag in the car because I don't want to return them. Because there's only so many times you can go to Walgreen's, especially if it's a crazy Walgreen's. Where we lived in Pilsen in Chicago there was a crazy Walgreen's in the South Loop, and the Walgreen's here in the Highland Square area of Akron is a crazy Walgreen's, and by that I mean there is always a bizarre and electrical energy within it, and someone in front of you is stockpiling like Sierra  Mist and talking to themselves. That's a crazy Walgreen's. I should also mention that the men in my family were executives for Walgreen's, and so we are a Walgreen's family, a big topic of discussion will be what Walgreen's are opening up here or there, that is true. Akron in general has a crazy energy to it, often, on the street. These Lynch-like tableaus.

Lately on the drive here and there and everywhere I have been listening to the electoral debates, which are very divided here in Ohio, and there's a large Tea Party presence here. This morning I listened to Tom Ganley on NPR, he's the businessman who owns like a zillion auto dealers who is running for Congress here, I believe in Lorain County, also was recently hit with a sexual assault suit from a female volunteer who met him at a Tea Party rally. I listen to these radio programs and feel crazy. Anyway, Tom Ganley is speaking about all of the programs that he's going to cut, and the first he mentions is the National Endowment for the Arts. And he says, "I mean, it's 16 (made up number: me) million a year we're paying out. And some of it is smut!"

I remember what I wanted to say about Walgreen's. Yesterday at my first visit, I speak to the counter woman about the weather. It is cold yesterday and it is supposed to be warm. This is the entirety of the conversation I have with outside people here. The weather. And she says, "I don't care, as long as the miners are okay!" Of course during the second visit she rings me up again and I ignore her. I feel we've already spoken.

Everyone is very obsessed with these Chilean miners. I am going under, I say now, perennially. It has now been pointed out to me that I say this often, and that this is a curious phrase. I guess it does remind one of surgery, of ether...to go under, to collapse. A sort of necessary bell jar? I use this to signify when I will need to be unbearably private, and I cannot be public (writing in the public, worrying about publicity). Private as opposed to public (coming out, the miners greet the president and their wives.) Both I think are very stressful. The going under and the coming out. Both have specific pressures to them. Of course it can all topple over.

I unravelled and said I was going to stop writing this blog because I felt this pull, this desire, to go under. Is this self-protection or masochism? I do not know and still do not know. I know that I am back, and it might be sporadic. Or it might be constant. There are events in my life I have not been able to document. And so that made this project of the blog, which was always one of raw authenticity, seem false and forced. For one, I am now reconceptualizing and researching and rewriting the nonfiction book. This really compelled me to try to go under. But I realize I am still teaching intensely now, so I cannot possibly do much work on it anyway, and this space here is actually one of much freedom. I almost feel more freed now with the realization that the book when it comes out will hardly resemble the blog at all. It will not be the blog and pull from the essays on the blog. Maybe one or two. But probably not the anorexic/bulimic or anything dealing with aesthetics. It will now be focused on the women of modernism, these mad wives and mistresses, and connecting to the contemporary, to female identity in the age of the DSM-IV/V. In a way it will look more, I believe, like the original text this blog was started for, Mad Wife. I can say this: it's a terrible idea to casually research borderline personality disorder while you're having a semi-public breakdown on your blog. Bad idea all around.

For those who felt I was ridiculous, to be so dramatic and public, I understand and empathize. I think I was ridiculous. I have always had a fairly high propensity for ridiculousness. This has been more heightened or less heightened at various moments in my life. Today in creative nonfiction we discussed Joe Wenderoth's "Letter's to Wendy's" and spoke about the notion of a persona. I said, "For example, in my blog, I come off as very neurotic and sometimes manic, when I have long lulls of terrifically boring sanity." This is true. The stress and the pressure of these creative projects and the stress and pressure of publicity has made me have a quasi Lindsey Lohan. I thought the past few days, perhaps I am the Lindsey Lohan of literary blogging. But then I realized, unfortunately, I am the Kim Kardashian of literary blogging. Or like one of her sisters, like Khloe. I am the Khloe Kardashian of literary blogging. No, I am the Heidi Montag of literary blogging. I am sitting by the poolside in a staged photo looking melancholy, staring into my image I've ceased to recognize - this image is my author photo, and I am so forlorn.

This is a good segue into what this post is actually about - I have been told I can tell, but to use my discretion, and we all know I absolutely lack any discretion, that I can now say that my novel Green Girl is coming out through Emergency Press in Fall 2011.  I am very pleased that Green Girl will now have such a good home, and  readers. The book has been a labor for five years, it is the first work of fiction I ever began writing, the first real work I ever began writing, and it engages with many of the ideas I've discussed on this blog - the notion of the flaneuse, the girl-libertine, publicity and celebrity and breakdown, living life through film. It is my existential novel about shopping and make-up, following an American ingenue named Ruth as she works at a department store in London assigned to spritz a celebrity perfume called Desire. And of course her breakdowns, and love affairs, and meaningless jobs that all have "girl" in them.

Yesterday, before I spoke and formalized things with the publisher, I was in Pittsburgh before class, and felt an urge to go to the Sephora on Walnut and get new concealer, because of what I have been seeing in the mirror with the fluorescent unvanity bulbs, or just a general desire to be more polished, a film still, to be all there on the outside, I am doing a reading tonight in Cleveland, and I'm feeling tired, so unbearably tired. I let a Smashbox makeup artist talk me into tinted moisturizer as well, even though I've purchased about 5 tinted moisturizers in the past year and about 4 new concealers. My character Ruth is also obsessed with make-up, and part of the novel is inspired by my roaming around the make-up counters of London department stores when I lived in London with John, looking to be fixed, to be fulfilled, much more of a spiritual quest, a desire to escape oneself perhaps through glorious consumption. The makeup artist tried to talk me into bronzer. He swirls it on my cheeks. I look in the mirror. You look so awake he says. You look so young. Then he tells me: This is Kim Kardashian's favorite. She uses it every day.