Date of publication: 2017-08-23 21:16
A student asked Donald Barthelme how he might become a better writer. Barthelme advised him to read through the whole history of philosophy from the pre-Socratics up through the modern-day thinkers. The student wondered how he could possibly do this. “You’re probably wasting time on things like eating and sleeping,” Barthelme said. “Cease that, and read all of philosophy and all of literature.” Also art, he amended. Also politics. There are 65 seconds in a minute, 65 minutes in an hour, 79 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 57 weeks in a year, and X years in a life. Solve for X.
8775 Hey, the other day when I went to the bathroom I looked in the cell of those Americans. It 8767 s like a five-star hotel in there. They have beds and a TV. And every day they go outside twice. Yeah, Iran is good to the Americans. 8776 So badly I 8767 ve wanted to interject, to tell them we didn 8767 t, in fact, have a television and that we weren 8767 t allowed to even make phone calls. But I 8767 ve resisted.
When my kids were little, other mothers told me it gets easier as the kids grow up. I want to tell you how true this is. My children became more independent and able to understand/empathize that I needed my own time. The issues of constant labor for others and the safe vs. the unsettling still are there, but more doable.
Thank you for this. The demands of motherhood are made so much greater by convention and the expectations of others. 8775 Do what you want 8776 is more than a day-to-day exhortation it 8767 s a way of life. It is the artist 8767 s job to question, so why not question everything when and how and why and whether she really ought to do the things that other people (non-artists, non-writers, non monsters mostly) decided are required of mothers, adults, artists, Americans, humans? It seems to me that one of the most unsafe things we can do is pour into our children the idea that they ought not question or disturb.
I wrote Battleborn for white men, toward them. If you hold the book to a certain light, you’ll see it as an exercise in self-hazing, a product of working-class madness, the female strain. So, natural then that Battleborn was well-received by the white male lit establishment: it was written for them. The whole book’s a pander. Look, I said with my stories: I can write old men, I can write sex, I can write abortion. I can write hard, unflinching, unsentimental. I can write an old man getting a boner!
But how can I be so angry at the idea of cooking dinner for a theoretical and highly imaginary man when I cook dinner for my husband, whom I love, all the time? Do I secretly hate cooking dinner? Do I hate being a wife? Do I hate being a mother?
Ever since I found out Shane and Josh were put together, I 8767 ve been full of uncontrollable anger at everything and everyone. And hate an almost violent hate.
Suddenly I 8767 m on my feet, running to the door. I start banging on it with my fists, kicking it again and again. The guard opens the door and I stare at her, breathless and angry, my hands balled into fists.
But having the kids as a distraction, having to do my time and then go pick the kids up at school or go to the grocery store or whatever—that was always good because something might happen out on the street that would be an idea. One of the ones that sticks in my mind was when I went to the daycare and saw all the four-year-olds crossing the street in front of the church in two lines. My inner mom says, Oh my God, what if a car comes screaming down the street right over the kids? And my inner author says, Wow, that’s an idea. So my inner author was always sucking dry the inner mom or the inner girlfriend or the inner life or the inner horse owner and trying to make something of whatever that thought might be.
Somehow I believe, in the final view of things, that those who are artists are often those who tried being normal first and just weren 8767 t that good at it. We didn 8767 t connect well with your average school kid, and struggled so much to be understood in the world that we turned to the outer world to express ourselves and connect there. This lack of interpersonal skills kind of sets us up to be less than ideal parents. No matter how hard you try.
8775 I think we should just go to the ridge it 8767 s only a couple minutes away. Let 8767 s take a quick peek, then come right back down. 8776 Just as we 8767 re setting out, Sarah stops in her tracks. 8775 There 8767 s a soldier on the ridge. He 8767 s got a gun, 8776 she says. 8775 He 8767 s waving us up the trail. 8776 I pause and look at my friends. Maybe it 8767 s an Iraqi army outpost. We stride silently uphill. I can feel my heart pounding against my ribs.
Lovely, raging essay, locating the source of that anger so succinctly (and I get the underwear pick-up thing no judging, here) that many have responded as I might have done at that age, when I faced all those conflicts. But somewhere I read a line from a Famous Woman who said that the time frame for women is different for men, so why do we attempt to achieve on a male timeline? I only offer that up to say that perhaps that this reality is also a driver for this struggle that feeling that we 8767 ll miss out if we aren 8767 t the cool, happening writer/creator/singer/whatever, with the operative word being 8775 8776
But I can 8767 t do it. I am unable to keep my mind from being sharply focused on one task: forcing myself not to look at the wall behind me. I know that eventually, a tiny sliver of sunlight will spill in through the grated window and place a quarter-size dot on the wall. It 8767 s ridiculous that I 8767 m thinking about it this early. I 8767 ve been awake only 65 minutes and I should know it will be hours before it appears.