Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I was really depressed today, kind of paralyzed or stopped. Mostly dealing with my life, struggling with immense feelings of failure since I am in some kind of hopeless jobless situation (the IRS says my writing is a hobby, it is a hobby), and wanting to maybe tread back into the pool of trying to be a Literature Professor, but not knowing how to, feeling my Ph.D in Fuckedupness as a girl and my unscholarly background will forever limit me. Today was a lot of Internet searching about what the fuck I'm going to do with the rest of my life, once this book is finished. This probably has a lot more to do with anxiety over finishing my book, and the sense that once I do, that will be a major chapter closed and except for really exciting book/prose projects I don't have anything to do afterwards.

But I know that many of us are going through something now, I am not alone, and some of you are waiting for spring, feeling stuck still in grayness or winter. So as I've been doing I tried to think of a gem from what I was working on/learning about today. I could show you a page from Flaubert's letters - because oh my god did he write a lot about fucking and sucking. I had no idea what a horny man Flaubert was, and how into the hookers he was (tonight if I can bear bathtub reading I am planning on looking at Francis Steegmuller's work on Flaubert and Julian Barnes' Flaubert's Parrot, also a biography of his mistress Louise Colet, a writer as well).

But I thought I'd share a passage from one of my favorite modernist novels of madness, Emily Holmes Coleman's The Shutter of Snow, which Dalkey has reissued (Coleman a fascinating figure, a passionate diarist and letter writer who was once a secretary for Emma Goldman and was Djuna Barnes' biggest champion and sort of literary agent for Nightwood). The work is partially taken from her experience being institutionalized in the 20s following childbirth, and it offers a really vivid and quite expressionistic and sometimes hilarious view into the community of women on the violent wing of a mental ward, and of psychosis (I would compare it to the gorgeousness of Janet Frame's Faces in the Water). Anyway, the main character Marthe is supposed to have one of her interviews, kind of like the scene at the end of The Bell Jar, and the doctor interviewing her asks her why she's in there (she replies, Because I think I'm Jesus Christ, as she does), and then he asks her where she is. And she answers (Coleman doesn't use traditional quotation marks or often punctuation, so seems to switch from third to first person with her narrator, adding to this sort of delirious inside effect, a lot of the rhythms reminded me of Ann Quin's Berg):

My dear doctors, I am sure that as alienists you have no superiors. But surely when its written all over the sheets, and the blankets, and the laundry bags, not to mention the letters I receive from home, you cannot believe that I dont know this is the Gorestown State Hospital of Gorestown. I may be insane but I protest Im not feeble-minded.

       You can go said Dr Armitage. (I shall be gone.) 

If in departing I may be allowed to mention she said, that such violently checkered socks do not go well with such a dazzlingly striped tie (being an alienist of reputation you must think of these things) I am sure you will not take offence. Perhaps we should speak to Mrs. Armitage.
      There isnt any Mrs Armitage called out Dr Brainerd from the chorus.

Marthe rose from her chair. Dr Armitage got up and bent over her head. Goodbye Mrs Gail he said, I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing you soon again. She shook his head and held it for a moment. My dear Dr Armitage she said, when I have risen from the dead and have restored my kingdom upon earth, if I can do anything for you or yours a word from you will be considered of the utmost importance. He does not know my heart.

        Miss Macauley snatched her arm and rushed her out.

I love this - the sly wit and deviousness of it, the ability to act sane but the desire not to be contained.Or despite experiencing psychosis her sanity intelligence and wit.


Kate Durbin's The Fashion Issue

Is coming out through Zg press in 2012! Yay! I want my daughter (Green Girl) and her daughter to go on play dates together (i.e. readings). Well, I guess if I have to explain it the metaphor is strained. Congrats, Kate!

we are our own damn muses, Arizona

two quips then I must work

I have to really try to work today - it has been hard to get to work properly after the weekend. I have two more notebooks to transcribe and then research to do regarding mental health statistics at the library - these notebooks are very difficult for me because they are high theory. In short, they are other people's words, and sometimes I can be seduced by other people's words. I read Catherine Clement's The Guilty One - and realize - I should not quote that - I should write like that. As inspiration. So often though people say things so much better. You crave to have them say that for you. But that is a different sort of text. 

It can be hilariously excruciating to ask design help from a partner who is a scholar in the History of the Book. Last night we were working on how to mark separations in Green Girl - as there are no traditional chapters, just spaces, pauses, scenes - and of course my pesky epigraphs which I wanted to just exist between sections but I guess that's impossible and now they will "lead" new sections (which to me rings terribly of a chapter, but anyway). We were on the phone with a mutual friend who is designing the book, who is himself a historian of design and a scholar, and I kept on saying "right-hand" and John  kept on correcting me: "recto." I said, "recto" means "right," right? He said, no the recto of course means many things and launched into a lecture. Normally I love watching and listening to John handle a book and explain its histories, its mysteries, but I didn't want to be lectured, mostly because I'm always nervous of the convenient surgery and hasty decisions that can happen at such a stage in the process, and I worry over my original intent, which is hard to decipher from a Word document. We were looking at the paperback Lust by Elfriede Jelinek to see if she did traditional chapters (she did, but she also like me didn't indent paragraphs) and I told John if he was going to lecture me on the recto for one more second I was going to throw the book (the usual threat). He did, because he cannot help explaining things, and so I threw Lust underneath the oven. I didn't mean to throw it underneath the oven, it just landed there.

Later that night, we are in bed, and I thought of it - John, I said. Tonight you gave me a Recto Exam. He groaned and went back to sleep.

Also, blood tests came back from the doctor. I have a fairly bad Vitamin D deficiency, which perhaps could have led to a lot of my symptoms. I am being very pro-active about my health which of course means I'm not working at anything else. Yesterday I decided like a hysterical cheerleader not only was I going to eat a vegan diet, but high-raw as well, and went about researching all things to do with collard greens and had to go to the grocery store to get more hemp seeds and chia seeds and the Vitamin D supplements and greens up the wazoo. Of course I am also someone who actually salivates at a good kale salad with avocado (the trick is to massage the greens with oil). I am also drinking the herbs my Chinese medicine doctor Helen prepared for me - they take two hours a day to melt down. If I was going to make an equivalent taste for death, it would be the taste of these herbs. I am also keeping a health diary at the request of my lady parts doctor - this humors me as well, for it's all of these scatological entries, and I've gotten into more than the spirit of things and write of course long detailed columns for each day, what I ate, what I felt, the detailedness of the discomfort. All to excess. Everything to excess.

I realized later on in the day - my Vitamin D deficiency - of course - I have the malady of the agoraphobe. This seemed appropriate and it cheered me somehow.