I am now going into that strange period, in terms of my relationship to you, my readers, as you are writers who I also read I feel I can say that, in that I will not be able to reveal so much of everything. Because there is too much of everything. I am now IN the book in earnest. In that I wrote - 3000 words today - real words, inside the text. That is something. But I hope to provide windows into what I have been thinking, some of it in pseudo-draft form, others of it pseudo-summarizing.
Today I received two notices from the outside world - the interview I conducted with Chris Higgs on HTML Giant as part of his month-long series with experimental women writers is now live (with my author photo bearing a bra strap), and I received a rejection for The Book of Mutter (now in this last phase of sending it out two nos, three I haven't heard from). Today is a return to the now-here after being in Asheville over the weekend, charming, eccentric, Asheville, where I saw two windows of tableaux vivants (in one, giggling girls in metallic deconstructed flapper dresses, the other a belly dancer in a Middle Eastern restaurant), and we flaneured everywhere and everything felt free and carnivalesque. This trip was a sort of Zelda pilgrimage, to the site where she was last institutionalized and died in a fire, the Highland Hospital, to see what remains (physically only two buildlings, I'm talking spiritually). Also to the Grove Park Inn, where Scott convalesced in the summer before or after Zelda moved from the Baltimore Phipps Clinic to Highland. Anyway. I will write of all this in the book, this sense of ghosting, of feeling possessed by my madwomen.
But two things to meditate on, which perhaps intersect with the questions Chris asked about my identity and thoughts about being an experimental (women) writer, as well as how I contextualized it, which is basically how I've been contextualizing everything lately, through modernism. This idea of shame and rejection I feel I always carry with me and have since I started entering in the outside world as a writer (the public). At a couple of bookstores in Asheville, really wonderful bookstores. Except of course there's no way I would ever find my book there - and how does that affect how I view myself as a "writer" - how society (small s, capital S society) views me? I don't even look. Z -for Zambreno. I do look - Z for Zelda. And at Malaprops there is actually a marker for Zelda under "Regional Fiction" - although none of the books - just one of the picture books that's a shared bio of their life. I took a picture of it. Being a small press writer is perhaps always being relegated to the “minor” category – although perhaps there’s a freedom in that. But perhaps that’s why I identify with these women marginalized in modernism. The identification with the minor, with those writing on the margins.
Yet how I sometimes feel invisible and simultaneously desire recognition within a small community (the small press one, here, blogs like HTML Giant) perhaps mirrors these women, mirroring Zelda’s plight as being labeled an amateur, married to not only an economic success, but to the Novelist of her Generation. I remember when I got out of college and was waiting tables, which was not acceptable to my parents, my mother taking me out to lunch at Marshall Field’s, after we walked around the mall, our routine, and trying to impress upon me that unless I made money on it – unless I could claim it on my taxes – writing was always a hobby, and I needed to find a real job. Of course, I wasn’t really writing then, I was just pretending to be, or certain that I was meant to be, or had this desire to transcend the feeling of being a character, of saying someone else’s lines. And this is still the general reaction when I dare to tell others I write, I am a writer. Before, it was worse: are you published? As if that cements it. Anyway, I rarely tell people anymore. I last saw the woman who was my mother's matron of honor at her wedding when she came to visit my uncle, who was dying, and she was entirely skeptical that I was a writer. Are you writing? She asked, impatiently, as if she was standing in for her best friend who has now been dead, so long (9 years this week). And when I outlined approximately what I do, where I’m published, my defense, as if I was explaining something to my mother who never saw me actually publish fiction, although in later years her opinion was reversed and she was convinced I could do it, if I believed in myself enough – she smiled at me in an entirely pitying way and said – Well maybe this will lead to something. Maybe you’ll get discovered one day. I see now that this is not likely – in terms of her definition of success at least - and is it even the point? But perhaps the bigger point is without a connection to either the mainstream publishing industry or the institutionalized world of writing – the coteries, the academic departments – the chance of being remembered, of one’s words living on afterwards – is fairly nil. One writes now with awareness of one’s eventual erasure and invisibility, although perhaps we are more knowledgeable of these processes. And the friendless, those without a community – unless they have some champion (like Anna Kavan did with her publisher Peter Owen, as well as rock stars like scifi writer Brian Aldiss) their works will certainly die along with them.
But the point is, we cannot wait around to be discovered. The goal is not to be the next Great American Novelist. This is perhaps closed to us anyway. The point, perhaps is to write – by God to write – to write and refuse erasure – and to use up all the channels to scream, to sing, to singe. All of these things. To not try to be a great anything (as Zelda said to Scott: "Dear: I'm not trying to be a great artist or a great anything," subtext: just let me fucking write. ). But to write because we desire to, because we need to – and to refuse to be ignored.Or stopped.
But then how does the experience of rejection stop us from writing (Repat Blues wrote a wonderful post on this the other day, and like her I love reading Roxane Gay's blog). For the most part I have become inured, I experience a small prick, a stab, and get over it, yet certain rejections still hit me hard. Maybe today did and I'm trying not to react to it - because I shouldn't swallow it, although the amount of places to send Mutter to anymore are fastly dwindling (I would wager it's been rejected - 20 times, less than Green Girl, but still a lot. I also have far less places to send it.) I tend to react to rejection passively, my shoulderblades go in, as if I already expected the blow – it makes me scratch out a day, sometimes, or used to. I indulge in feelings of worthlessness, of my own deteriorating self. That is the reaction of the depressive – to take it inward, to swallow these great big feelings of shame and failure. Mademoiselle Reisz feeling Edna Pontellier's shoulderblades in The Awakening, asking her if she has the courage, the bravery to be an artist, the soul that dares and defies. By contrast, Fitzgerald papering his wall in New York with all of his –122 for 9 stories! - they were the fuel that fed him. The drive was always fame, also: immortality. Some react to rejection with a fuck-you bravado – all self-protective of one’s ego. This is perhaps a masculine impulse. It is a triumph of the ego. Unlike Viv who seemed to have hung things up when The Dial rejected The Paralysed Woman – or Zelda upon reception of Save me the Waltz- which was really the absence of one.