Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Portland reading was shockingly wonderful. To begin with, the space was packed . . . so many people out on a Friday night to hear poems. And there was an even stranger thing: I knew so many of them. What an odd feeling. And then I read "Mr. Kowalski," which felt good in my mouth and in the air, so that was a fine relief.

So here I am, now, back in the north . . . a music gig this morning, housework in the afternoon, and teaching all day tomorrow. The essay that made me cry is still making me cry, but not with such vigor. That's for the best.

"There is a kind of despair involved in creation which I am sure any artist knows all about." Iris Murdoch put those words into the mouth of a completely unreliable narrator, her character Bradley Pearson in The Black Prince. Bradley also declares that "men truly manifest themselves in the long patterns of their acts, and not in any nutshell of self-theory." These remarks all sound reasonable, except that Murdoch proceeds to show us how ridiculously mistaken Bradley has been about himself and his motivations. Nabokov's Lolita and Pale Fire do similar work, I think. The lesson here is: Do not make pompous artist statements.

Still, our acts do manifest patterns, whatever those patterns may imply. I am writing an essay that makes me cry, and this is not the first time I've cried over what I'm writing. But the fact that I cry has nothing to do with whether or not the essay will turn out to be crap. Something else must also be at work, something beyond raw feeling, and I think it involves a certain detachment . . . a doubleness, an inside-while-outside sensation. Or maybe that's just me. I'll stop now before the pompous artist statement starts to swell.

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