Monday, November 15, 2010

and where she stops

I am realizing my life is mirroring more and more the mad wives. This weekend I was in New York, and I bought a gorgeous gray winter coat with an upturned collar that makes me look mysterious, which reminded me of Scott buying Zelda the gray-blue Patou suit for their wedding, that matched the color of her eyes. John and me so consumed like the Fitzgeralds at times with thingness - we become extraordinarily possessed by this thingness, and the texture and fabric of these things haunt our landscapes and we become people who talk of things. And everything and everyone is always so beautiful in New York,  and there's all the art always to go to, and it's almost staged, this beauty, or conformist, this beauty, like that Bertolucci film, both in the stagedness and the conformity. Like the Anselm Kiefer show at the Gagosian, all these immense and fantastic poetic landscapes encased in these ornate cells, but the same, the same mythology and shtick, for sale, to ship, this is what I thought of New York this weekend, everything is a commodity, everything is for consumption, everything is style, surface, gloss. This weekend I thought everything is a thing in New York, and I am a thing in New York, I become consumed, this consumption of things. And I felt voluptuously sickened by this, it was a sort of nausea, a nausea of intense and fervent consumption. And I felt myself choking on it all, and realized I cannot live there. I cannot be a New Yorker. I was planning on moving to New York in the spring or summer, and last Friday I met with the head of the writing program at Pratt, this gorgeous campus with all of the sculptures in Clinton Hill, and we spoke about fiction and Coetzee and whether I was an experimentalist and whether I was a fiction writer for an hour, and it was pleasant, and at the end he said yes I could teach gorgeous classes there, one or two gorgeous stylish classes, which pay very little, and I found myself saying yes, and I found myself thinking no, and this was the strangest of things. For all my life - ALL MY LIFE - I have wanted to live in New York, and I did for the briefest of periods when I was 20, and this was my Bell Jar descent, it wasn't even original, my breakdown, I returned home from my magazine internship in New York and proceeded to lose my mind, and I was supposed to after graduation go live with a costume designer for Julliard in Queens, while proofing copy at the Voice, but instead decided to become a mental patient instead. And then for years - YEARS - this was my refrain - New York New York New York - and my whole identity was based, somehow, on the fact that I was not living in the city that I should, this melancholy, this sense of unrest, I was Masha in Chekhov's Three Sisters, I was always choking on my bitterness, and my Moscow was New York. And I was supposed to move there, this is how the refrain went, but then my mother got sick, and I was supposed to move there, but then I fell in love with John and stayed in Chicago and went with him to London instead, and I was supposed to move there, but we ran out of all money and we had to move home with my father, and I was supposed to move there....always something. And then, in this one period of my life, it would be possible, perhaps possible for me to move there, and I told everyone I was moving there, and John and I felt so sure...I don't know what happened. This weekend my period so terrible also terrible the certain yet delayed onset I kept on waiting to bleed walking around the streets of New York, while John was in interviews at various libraries, I walked around thick and moaning and uncomfortable, I worried about bleeding on the white sheets as we were staying with John's friend in Brooklyn, and thought of Vivienne stealing her hotel sheets and sending them back laundered. I don't know. Perhaps it was the article in the Times about how no artists live in Soho anymore, even though there's a clause that you must be an artist to buy a loft, but really the lofts are like 7 million dollars, and I guess I thought, I can move here and struggle, and pay so much to rent a place in Brooklyn, and teach 7 classes, and wait tables at some hip place if they'd even have me anymore, if I'm not too haggish anymore, or I can move somewhere more quiet, and teach a little, but mostly write, just write. And something I never announced here was that John was offered a job at the university in Chapel Hill, a wonderful rare books librarian job, and we decided after this weekend that he is going to take it, and we are going to move there, we are going to move there in a month or so, and I am going to in the midst of moving and madness try to proof these pages of Green Girl, and try to rewrite this book, and perhaps if we can - if possible -try some time in Berlin beforehand - but who knows maybe straight to North Carolina. So this is why I'm like one of the mad wives of modernism. Always moving, moving, moving. Ambivalent towards the city and the country. This weekend I bought Lydia Davis' translation of Madame Bovary, probably one of my favorite books of all time, as important as Mrs. Dalloway for my writing, I read it every year, the Davis translation is so delightful and such style! So of course I am thinking of my Emma as well. Who wants to die and go live in Paris and be in a convent, all at the same time. I am thinking more of Flaubert's attention to detail dealing with clothes, what everyone is wearing, this is what I note in New York this weekend, all the women wear these stylish shiny ankle boots that Flaubert would love, they click-click in their heels, like glamorous racehorses...But I feel I too can be infected by this, I am ready and eager to go back to the pose of the observer...also loved Davis' intro, how Flaubert would write and write and write, and sometimes go to Paris in the weekends to socialize. Perhaps this is a question too about desiring to be a subject (writer) more than an object (girl). Thinking too how much the first half of The Bell Jar is about fashion, and Esther becoming a thing, and losing track of what she wants (to write), how she is infected by desire for Doreen's patent-leather purse that matches her belt, and all of her neat clothes she buys with her scholarship money at Bloomingdales, and conformist Hilda like an empty dybbuk in her hats, droning on and on about the Rosenbergs and all the colors of green, and this is a sort of existentialist female nausea that Plath depicts, that I too recognize, this alienation from the self by wanting to be a glossy perfect film still, and how Esther rebels from the indoctrination of the fashion magazine, throwing her clothes like confetti off the rooftop, letting the streaks of blood dry on her cheeks, a grotesque mimicking of the ritual of makeup, as she rides back to the dreary suburbs.