It’s a frigid January night and I’ve been hibernating for days. My cupboards are nearly empty and tonight’s dinner combined tofu with Italian breadcrumbs, tomato sauce (last jar), whole wheat pasta, and frozen peas. A bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream from my late mother in law has bitten the dust. Gusts of wind seep through old windows and doors. I want to believe the plumbing and electrical systems of this old house can handle whatever winter demands of it…So far, so good.
Hibernation also means endless writing, editing, and listening to rock music. Each session opens with “Gimme Shelter”, “You Can’t Always Get Want You Want”, and “Layla”, shifting into “Surrender”, “Liza Radley”, “Tell Me” (covered by The Dead Boys), “Tiny Dancer”, “Heroes”, “I Wanna Be Sedated”, and concludes with “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Rock Anthems make me write. Rock Anthems keep me sane, especially as my hours are spent in circuitous conversation with ghosts, painful memories, unspeakable desires, improbable hopes, and tremendous fears. I don’t know if my life or my writing will ever live up to lyrics, but I’ve crafted 253 pages and 55,000 words of my novel “The Wife in Winter: Seduction of the Muse”and seem to be living to tell the tale. There’s TONS more to edit, this will be a “big swinging dick” (to use Tom Wolfe’s phrase) of a novel. These days, I refer (tongue in cheek) to the novel as a “Mistress Piece” in oblique homage to Thornton Wilder’s “Stage Manager” and Tom Wolfe’s other famous phrase, “Masters of the Universe.”
This morning began with sunlight streaming onto my dining room table while I sought to sustain a #continuouspractice #wildlyimperfect effort to write for twenty minutes a day without intention or goal. I’m doing this as part of a community of creative folks, most of whom post photographs of their daily practices on Facebook. Their neat homes, adorable cats, and serene personal spaces fascinate me. My house is a total mess, the pet chinchilla sleeps all day in the den, and there’s more loneliness than serenity in the difficult world-creating work I do. But the shared visual depiction of their lives offers me an odd sort of companionship. We are mostly women of a certain age shedding the perfectionism expected of our gender (and often required for our survival) while thriving on a certain degree of healthy compulsion. As the daughter of a soldier, I know how to march…and keep marching forward…This time, the real campaign is for my novel while growing my life as writer and poet.
The greatest gifts I’ve been given are stories, beginning with those of my late father, who put me to bed at night with tales of the Iliad and Odyssey. I was blessed to have a father who recommended wonderful books (“Shogun”, “Marjorie Morningstar”, “Papillon”, “Exodus”), who let me order as many as I wanted from Scholastic, and never told me there was anything I couldn’t read. Yes, my mother hid her copy of Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying” and both my parents refused to include me when they went to see the movie of “A Clockwork Orange.” But the Anthony Burgess novel could also be found on the parental bookshelf, so I eventually made sense of the “Zipless Fuck” and “The Old In and Out.” However, my parents did take me to see a production of “La Ronde” when I was in seventh grade, during our trip cross country. In retrospect, it probably was their best attempt at sex education. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone my age I could talk with about sexual exploitation in capitalism but that was par for the course. If you have parents who take you to see “Our Town at the age of five, “Mephistopheles” at the age of six, and “The Zoo Story” at the age of ten, they’ve set you on a path that few will share…
Books have enabled me to endure everything in life that has given me pain. A good novel can provide a magical place where readers can be immersed in the interwoven lives of compelling characters and renew their strength for the challenges they face. Hopefully “The Wife in Winter: Seduction of The Muse” will embody an antidote to loneliness, providing comfort and empowerment during dark times.