What I’m Reading

How to square one truth against another?

How to square one truth against another?

I first read Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss, a memoir of her love affair with her father, this past October. Of course, I had heard about it plenty when it was first published in 1997, but that was a year when I spent most of my energy simply getting by. As I read, I felt compelled to transcribe some of her beautiful sentences. I’m reading them again today, in light of #MeToo, and I wonder if maybe they’ll speak to you too.

“… my rage over always receiving directives disguised as gifts”

“… the dizzy rapture of starving. The power of needing nothing …. live on air, on water, on purity.”

“… I feel too much — I always have — and it’s impossible to live with my heart always breaking, equally impossible to keep myself anesthetized.”

“My father’s possessing me physically seems increasingly to be just that: Each time, he takes a little more of my life; each time, there is less of me left.”

“Is there a way to tell a stranger that once upon a time I fell from grace, I was lost so deeply in a dark wood that I’m afraid I’ll never be safe again?”

In How Our Lives Become Stories, Paul John Eakin declares that “Kathryn Harrison is the author of her younger self.” He notes the apparent disconnect between the identity depicted — “weak, controlled, victimized” — and the writer who crafted her, “strong, controlling, even manipulative.” How do we square the truth of our past selves against the identities we’ve crafted in response?

Reading About: the writer’s focus

Reading About: the writer’s focus

“The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work. The working artist banishes from her world all sources of trouble. She harnesses the urge for trouble and transforms it in her work.”

“Self doubt can be an ally.  This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are.”

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

— Steven Pressfield

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Reading About: the writer’s mind

Reading About: the writer’s mind

“It still comes as a shock to realize that I don’t write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know. Is it possible to convey the enormous degree of blankness, confusion, hunch, and uncertainty lurking in the act of writing? When I am the reader, not the writer, I too fall into the lovely illusion that the words before me which read so inevitably, must also have been written exactly as they appear, rhythm and cadence, language and syntax, the powerful waves of the sentences laying themselves on the smooth beach of the page one after another faultlessly.

But here I sit before a yellow legal pad, and the long page of the preceding two paragraphs is a jumble of crossed-out lines, false starts, confused order.  A mess.  The mess of my mind trying to find out what it wants to say.  This is a writer’s frantic, grabby mind, not the poised mind of a reader waiting to be edified or entertained.”

—  from I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory by Patricia Hampl

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