Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I haven't done any writing for close to a week now. Mostly that's okay. My body is happy to be outside and away from my desk; and if my writing mind is less happy, well, I'm sure it's healthy for my writing mind not to get everything it desires.

I've been reading Mary Karr's memoir Cherry about growing up as a sex- and drugs- and literature-crazed girl in East Texas in the early 70s. The first time I read it, I liked it a lot; but this time the main character seems so dreadfully self-absorbed that I'm beginning to question the entire premise of autobiography and memoir. Why do writers feel compelled to inflict the minutiae of our obsessions on other people? Of course, I understand that's a specious question. What about Samuel Pepys, king of the self-obsessive, not to mention Updike's novels, which seem to arise from compulsive self-examination, as well as most contemporary poetry and a fair amount of canonical poetry--Keats, for instance?

We humans are so taken up with being human. But then beetles are very taken up with being beetles. Beetles, however, don't try to write about it. Not like itchy, insomniac S. Pepys--

from his diary, September 3, 1664

I have had a bad night's rest to-night, not sleeping well, as my wife observed, and I thought myself to be mightily bit with fleas, and in the morning she chid her mayds for not looking the fleas a-days. But, when I rose, I found that it is only the change of the weather from hot to cold, which, as I was two years ago, do stop my pores, and so my blood tingles and itches all day all over my body, but sweating cured me then, and I hope, and am told, will this also.

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