Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Regrets

This semester, I taught Jane Gallop's FEMINIST ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT, which is a very provocative book on many different levels, but I won't go into that now. After reading the book, I emailed Gallop & asked if she'd be willing to field some questions from my students later in the semester. She graciously accepted. So that's the back story.

One of the questions the students asked was, "If you could change one thing about your memoir, what would it be?" Gallop responded, "Honestly there hasn’t been one thing I’ve thought of changing. I’m not that kind of writer. I go on and write new books, but I don’t think about doing over those I’ve published. Which doesn’t mean I think they’re perfect, but that I think nothing is perfect. I think every book is a document of its moment in time, with the perspective of that moment."

Whereas this response received mixed responses in class, as a writer, I am quite honestly in awe of her point of view because I am "that kind of writer." I wish I could rewrite most of PARABOLA and delete a great portion of CHANGING. And they were only published within this last year! I can't even imagine what I'll think in a few years. Or a decade. Whereas these books are documents of their moment in time--my time--and I can appreciate that, it's for precisely that reason that I am most regretful for their existence.

I think it's brilliant that Gallop can think this way. I am humbled by her confidence and wise perspective.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Situating Self

The other day, I had a really interesting conversation with my friend Frances about where we situate ourselves as writers. She's a traditional short story writer. I, obviously, am not.

Well, first, I should mention that this conversation was spawned by a conversation I had with an artist friend of mine (Sheilah) about conceptual art v. pretty things. So I mentioned this "need" to categorize what I write--I use quotation marks because I often feel a need to use a modifying word when describing my writing, lest others find it too "confusing" or "difficult" without fair warning & dismiss it out of hand. The conversation then moved into insufficient words like "experimental" or "avant garde." I explained that, like her, I like the term "conceptual." I'd gladly say that my writing is "concept-based" rather than finding its rooting in "tradition."

Flash forward a few days to this other conversation with Frances, where I'm relaying the previous conversation, and as I was talking, I wondered where traditional writers situate themselves, or if they do. (I also had a conversation with Gene Morgan in Houston where he called this/my generation of writers a part of the "internet school," which is fascinating. I'm still mulling & processing this.) But not to stray off topic... So I asked Frances how she would label herself & her other writer friends. (Obviously, I'd have no difficulty "labeling" my writer-friends as "conceptual" or "innovative" writers.) But the thing is--or at least the decision we came to was--that if you're not challenging the genre, why would you need to situate yourself into any aesthetic politic? If you're not challenging the status quo, you don't need any modifying word to accompany "writer." I find this vastly unfair. And yet, I fall for it. I am the one who labels myself. Why?

Of course, this whole notion of situating myself within a "movement" is really pretentious, so I'm not even going to pretend that it isn't, but then again, there's a lot going on right now. Writing is exciting now. Books are exciting now. Why wouldn't one want to be involved in a dialogue, a movement? Or is it just self-importance?

Then again, I think the necessity--for me, at least--for this modifying word makes me LESS writer rather than MORE writer. I mean, if Frances calls herself a writer with no qualms (& really she shouldn't because she's an amazing writer), and I call myself a conceptual writer, which person is more secure & established as a writer? It's almost as if I need that modifying word as a buffer to separate me from my writerliness, as a disconnect, as a safety net... just in case someone criticizes what I write as "non-writing" or some shit like that. I'm not entirely sure I'm even making sense anymore. So yeah. I guess I'm done here.

Massive Novella Compendium

Please check out this Novella Compendium that John Madera has compiled. Very cool, and looks like I've got my summer reading...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reading Tonight

Hey hey... if you're in or around Normal, IL, I'll be reading at Illinois State University at 7pm at the CVA Galleries.