31 March 2015
burvil fell and broke her tailbone about a month ago. there's a lady coming to stay with her during the day and help around the house. when i- burvil's 33-year-old granddaughter- called yesterday, this lady answered. as she handed over the phone to burvil, who asked her who was calling, that lady told her, "it's some little girl."
filed under: burvil
24 March 2015
we've reached a point where:
(1) basically everyone famously connected to jackie who dies from here on out will be someone with whom i have corresponded. (likely, this correspondence was one-sided, but still...)
(2) writing about 1974/1975 brought the discovery that i can identify- with near-certainty- a significant number of the "close friend"s, "a source close to jackie"s and "a friend so close she dare not be named for fear of being stricken from the kennedy guest lists for forever"s- a gift of limited usefulness outside of the book i am currently writing, but still an unexpected delight. to read a report of how jackie saw a book in a bookstore and declared it all LIES and know liz smith got that story from an unnamed source who was, in all likelihood, truman capote.
(3) speaking of quotes... over christmas, whilst reading a recent-ish jackie book in the midst of my delirium, i was struck by the fact that i knew where they all came from- the biography or the archive- which was kind of like a version of biographical pop-up video. apparently this happens towards the end, you see a quote and "LBJ Library, 'Letters to VIPs, 1967,' Box 37, folder 2: Jacqueline Kennedy" pops to mind.
(4) richard nixon is everywhere. norman mailer too, but i mean nixon is EVERYWHERE, even when you are not looking, even when you are thinking, oh yeah, i'll get away from it all and write about jfk and marilyn monroe today and then lo! NIXON. he revealed himself about two weeks ago, making it quite clear that he and norman mailer wanted to hijack the end of the book. but then, in editing, i realized he was there all along, scattered like breadcrumbs leading to the watergate in everything i'd been writing the last 24 months. a circumstance which maybe shouldn't be as surprising as it is.
even when you think you're going somewhere and you lean into the notion that you do not know where that is, the possibility exists it was always there and you laughed at it, because it seemed so preposterous. because really, surely, it cannot all along have been so simple as this...
21 March 2015
so i'm sitting over here in britain writing for two years and four months and pretty much everything i've submitted has included the fact that my only research question is to try to come up a deeper response than doris kearns goodwin did when she told sarah bradford of jackie that, "Culturally something happened between her and the decade that she lived in, and that is what is really interesting to try and figure out."
and somehow it is only today that i think to google the original 2000 NYT review of america's queen, and see that it ends on this note:
Unfortunately, Bradford is not culturally sympathetic with her American subject. In fact, I'd bet my Burberry that she thinks America is ''bad tweed.'' A constitutionally British condescension toward Americans shimmies throughout the text of ''America's Queen.''
Until Jacqueline Kennedy became first lady in 1961, Bradford writes, ''glamour was a commodity singularly lacking in contemporary American politics and, indeed, in American life east of Hollywood.'' In other words, Sarah Bradford to Diana Vreeland, the Duchess of Windsor, Babe Paley et al.: drop dead. Bradford appears to concur with Lady Jean Campbell, who attended President Kennedy's funeral and wired back to The Evening Standard of London her conviction that the first lady had ''given the American people from this day on the one thing they always lacked -- majesty.''
Women's Wear Daily once described Mrs. Onassis as ''the most outstanding woman in the world.'' Bradford writes: ''Outstanding for what, you might ask? Apart from her performance after the assassination, when she 'broke the nation's heart and held the country together,' she did nothing of substance. And yet, through her looks, her style, her mysterious personality, she had a hold on the world's imagination in a way that no one else had. 'Culturally something happened between her and the decade that she lived in,' said Doris Kearns Goodwin, 'and that is what is really interesting to try and figure out.' ''
And that is a book that would be really interesting to read.
i'm a little biased, but having just spent the whole day reading that book, now two days old, i will say: yes, yes it is.
filed under: biogrophiled
20 March 2015
it is awful and full of holes and unready to be read by anyone but if a book is a thing with a beginning and a middle and an end, i have one.
when i talked to them separately, both garebear and debo had the same question: what's next? then garebear told me what book he was reading and debo told me about the gluten-free blueberry muffins she'd made for burvil into which she failed to put the butter in when it was supposed to go in.
and i thought, no no no no this cannot happen.
this is how it is in supervision. this immediate plowing ahead into the next thing so it feels like you never accomplish anything but you are always treading mud, because the fact that a zillion victories have had to occur to bring you to the point where that future thing is contemplable is never acknowledged.
i think no no no because this totally amorphous thing- the coming together of this beginning and middle and end with a subtle click discernible only by me and yet visceral enough it created a psychic tumult necessitating, in the two hours of writing preceding its occurrence, multiple breaks for tears- is a big huge fucking deal.
the book is not done. but there is a book. i know this because i printed it out this morning. and because, when i was leaving the library and the security guard checked all my papers to make sure i'd not stolen any manuscripts, she said to her co-worker, "she's got a book here." and then she said to me, "looks like you're nearing the end... you must be excited."
and i beamed.
there are ALL OF THE EMOTIONS.
ALL OF THEM.
NO EMOTION LEFT BEHIND.
i am thrilled. in awe. completely, utterly, totally bereft.
in the last two weeks, there was a tipping of the scales. 1973 and 1974 were more present than the present. i was more fully alive there than here.
i'm not explaining it well. it was magic. i want to go to back. aware it has just ended, the spell broken, already i look forward to finding that moment in the writing of the next book. where i know i've got it and i'm playing with a full orchestra, all the voices in my head bouncing off one another- mailer and nixon and jackie, all the rumors and lies and stories illuminating things that only, up to now, existed in a part of my brain i'd not imagined.
now, it is the sensation of someone having unexpectedly turned on the lights. i am very squinty.
and thrilled. awed. tired. bereft. ready.
19 March 2015
25 FEBRUARY 2012
the whole plan here is to write about jackie in a new way. because the old ways don't work. so i need to tell an old story in a way i've not yet invented. and i need it to be good enough that people who are familiar with the old story see how people 20 or 30 years younger than them might be bewitched by the new.
i often wonder if i'm making this a bigger deal than it is, but then, looking at the project condensed to its essentials in sentences like that, i'm reminded that the bigness of this is maybe legit. if i can pull it off.
once, i came close. way back in may, i got out a whole paragraph. the fact that the old school biographer to whom i showed it three months later completely excoriated that paragraph would suggest it was heading in the right direction. the fact that that paragraph didn't show up until around three in the morning after five whiskey sours is problematic.
it has, on more than one occasion, occurred to me that developing a drinking problem might well be the easiest in to writing about jackie in this way that does not yet exist. but that's too easy.and i've a reputation to uphold of always opting for the path of most resistance.
this ties into my god shit, because it's only in writing that i consistently [insert appropriate verb here] god.
this ties into my love shit too. because together my writing shit and my god shit and my love shit form a trinity of things into which i do not want to delve too deeply. accordingly, they are what i most consistently write about.
18 March 2015
17 FEBRUARY 2012
march is my favorite month. because march is my new year. when everything starts. when all things biographical seem to shift into high gear and a whole spring of possibilities opens up.
in contrast, january and february are a dark, oppressive world of emotional drear. (and this existential emodrama is now in its third year, so it's apparently going to be an annual event. something to look forward to...) a time of waiting, of wanting it to be march, of being still. as such, they should be months of great productivity and nonstop accomplishment. and so they might be were i any good at stillness.
i am not good at being still. words flow easily when i'm wandering in other cities or on planes and trains. they clog when i am where i am. because when i'm still, i feel stuck. when i'm stuck, i can't write. when i can't write, i think of all the writing i should be doing because i'm still and then i only feel more stuck. less able to write. unable to move.
this is a situation best expressed by marsha's husband wally in a pivotal scene from a very brady christmas, when he has lost his job and is grinding his teeth because he has lost his job and is stressed about the dental bills he's going to incur from grinding his teeth, which he's not going to be able to pay because he has lost his job, which is why he was grinding his teeth in the first place.
that is how january and february feel.
i am grinding my teeth.
17 March 2015
18 JANUARY 2012
by which i don’t mean the honorable, upstanding things, but the thoroughly stupid, senseless, impractical ones. the things people will warn you away from doing precisely because they seem to make no sense. or because they cost the equivalent of a small country's annual budget.
this has come up before. last year i used this exact logic as justification for going to paris for 13 hours. i'm realizing that, for me, the most thoroughly stupid, senseless, impractical things are maybe always going to involve paris.
i'm not sure what to do with that just yet. except go back to paris.
come may, i'm presenting a paper at a conference on narrative in france. a paper establishing jackie's tabloid life narrative as being of feminist importance. the conference is five months away. so far, my paper exists only as a three paragraph abstract that hits upon jackie's feminist importance in the vaguest possible terms.
this proposition is stupid, senseless and impractical on many levels, not to mention expensive. by extension, i'm ruthlessly gung-ho.
in hopes of finding inspiration, i've been wading through the pile of papers that have accumulated during the last eight years of research. two dozen legal pads filled with old notes and random musings. that is how i happened upon this, written in february 2004:
"jackie o as feminist icon? fun book to write but too hard to prove. TRUE but no one would believe. it cannot be done."
my first thought upon reading this? holy shit.
my second thought? yes, it can.
13 DECEMBER 2011
i dated a philosopher once. upon hearing this, my canadian penpal said, oline, what do philosophers DO? i told her their work involved long contemplative walks and staring pensively into the distance.
i'm writing the jackie tabloids book. yes, the truth of this fact is belied by the other fact, which is that i've said this at least five times. but- and we've discussed this before- sometimes the process of writing doesn't involve actual writing.
at the moment, writing about jackie involves no writing. it involves poster boards and long contemplative walks and staring pensively into the distance.
the common thought is this- jackie married onassis for his money.
and that was totally ok. because she was scared after the assassination of robert kennedy and so it's completely understandable and almost commendable that she would be desperate for the security onassis's money could provide.
this notion- this idea that she married for money- is preferable to the opposite. it's easier to swallow.
it was totally acceptable if she married for money. it was morally reprehensible if she married for love.
this dichotomy- this bizarre inversion of the moral code- has not been purused in the biographies. my mother's friend pinted it out when i was in new york in october. looking pensively down at the plate of assorted dessert cookies, she said that it seemed massively important.
it does. and, as is usually the case with things of massive importance, i don't have the slightest clue what to do with it.
so i'm buying poster boards and taking long walks and staring contemplatively off into the distance. trying to decide whether this is indicative of the general fuckedupness of jackie's relationships or the general fuckedupness of our relationship with her. that we would forgive her avariciousness but not her poor choice in men.
13 March 2015
21 NOVEMBER 2011
three months ago, i spoke with a biographer whom i barely knew but whom i had, nonetheless,- in a move requiring balls i do not possess- asked to write me a recommendation for the levy.
in a singularly devastating conversation after i had donated blood, he turned me down. lesson learned: do not make emotionally grueling phone calls after giving blood.
but it wasn't his denial that was so devastating. it was the fact that, in offering his advice on how i could strengthen my project, he hit upon every insecurity i have about this whole jackie thing.
which is quite an accomplishment given that they number in the millions. i've so, so many and, in an hour, he hit every single fucking one.
this led to the first time i've ever questioned what i'm doing.
the first time i was brought to my knees by the notion that what i've spent the entirety of the last year working at is maybe a colossal mistake.
the first time i begged god to show me if what i've been putting 3/4ths of my income towards was really just a fail that i've had the cockiness to blog.
it was the first time i felt i cannot do this.
i cannot be a writer.
and that scared the fucking shit out of me, because i have to do this. it's not that there is no other option but that there is no option. and yet...
this happened on august 13th. it's been three full months and yet still, much like the career of mike tyson, it surfaces every now and again to give me a good battering.
the thing is, everyone has an idea of how you should do whatever it is you want to do. whether that's writing or marriage or kids or your career or your whole life. everyone thinks they know better. they want you to write or see or do whatever it is they want to read or see or see you do. and the one thing of which they're absolutely certain is that you need to do precisely what they did because that worked so well for them.
the most valuable lesson i've learned in the last year is that these well-intentioned people, they do not fucking know.
they haven't seen what you've seen. they don't know what you can do. you have to show them. you have to write it or do it or be it or go there or do whatever the hell it is that lights you up. you have to bring the whole fucking world in line with where you are, with what you see.
i'm being melodramatic. ridiculous. i see what i'm doing as a crusade of sorts and i also see that seeing it that way is both pretentious and preposterous. because it's just jackie. just biography. just a book. and i am fumbling, flailing. moving heaven and earth for an 82-year-old dead woman i never knew and who has only twice in twenty years deigned to appear in my dreams.
the second most valuable lesson i've learned in that last year is that dead women aren't particularly good company. but, in spite of that, there's a rightness about this whole thing. there's a rightness in moving forward, particularly when you come to grips with the fact that forward motion doesn't have to be easy or linear and it most certainly doesn't have to make any sense.
i like to think that's why the legit biographers- the people with published books- don't seem to get what i'm doing. that maybe that's the reason they look at me all what huh? when i say i'm doing podcasts and going to conferences and that i have all these silly little columns that pay nothing.
they don't know. they don't see.
there's value in that if you embrace it. because, really, why the fuck would we want to waste all this energy on something everyone already understands?
what we're doing here- writing, living- is a process of constant revision. i think there comes a time when our expectations need to be pared away so as to make room for the possibilities, but i also think there comes another time when, in the jagged circuitous route towards those possibilities, we must confront the sheer impossibility of them.
stare them down, let the acknowledgement that maybe even we don't really fucking know what we're doing bring us to our knees before we put hannah montana pen to paper and keep plucking along. for in that- the simple, subtly rebellious act of continuing to write not because you know where you're going but because you know you are not done- there is a whole world of wonder in which the possibilities become real. and that is the world in which i want to live.
12 March 2015
17 NOVEMBER 2011
in things that happened yesterday that i did not expect to have happen yesterday and yet which it is good to have had happen- i bought a ticket to prague.
because a paper i wrote- though i'm not entirely sure which one- was accepted to a conference on celebrity studies that's being held there come spring.
this has done much to hammer home my belief that there is no better possible gateway to exotic(ish) vacations than the 82-year-old dead woman i've chosen to write about.
seriously. i proposed exotic travels to everyone i've ever dated (all of them actual, alive people) and yet it wasn't until i struck up a serious relationship with a dead woman that the exotic travels came true. a fact that reenforces my central thesis that jackie is an icon of such elastic extremes that she can be anything you want her to be.
(revelation: jackie has fueled my spirit of adventure more than anyone i know. this is equal parts fascinating and creeptastic.)
for me, at the moment, she functions much like a passport. a glittery ticket to a world whose wonders prove an excellent pallative to the strain stemming from her secondary function as a financial sinkhole.
and so i apparently really am going to prague with jackie to deliver some paper in a palace. file that under sentences i couldn't have even begun to imagine writing eleven months ago.
20 SEPTEMBER 2011
11 March 2015
04 AUGUST 2011
in secret things i did not blog about, all the way back in may, an agent requested a proposal for jackietabloidbook. the very same jackietabloidbook that i had just three days prior decided needed a total overhaul.
and so i did what anyone would do and pulled together an 80-page proposal in a matter of four days and emailed the whole thing off only to have it rejected twenty minutes later.
in the course of that lovely experience, i did hit upon a jackietabloidbook breakthrough. somehow a passage was produced that, for the first time ever, actually conveyed the essence of who i think jackie was.
which is totally awesome and great and all except for the nagging notion that what i've written may not be biography. i've a very great fear it is, in fact, historical fiction.
since writing this scary hybrid thing, i've been haunted by something a biographer said at the "filling the gaps" panel at the biographer's international conference last may. she seemed to take a more liberal line on the acceptability of filling the gaps than most of the biographers i've been running with and i was intrigued by that.
last week, i wrote and asked if she would read what i've got. yesterday, she wrote back she would.
and so it has come to pass that the first legit biographer to ever read jackie is a pulitzer prize winner with whom my only in-person interaction thus far has been the observation that there should be more stalls in the women's restroom at the national press club.
oh dear lord.
11 JULY 2011
people you may know
through the implementation of the 20.09.13 plan (t-minus 806) an amazing thing has happened to my facebook "people you may know."
it began with jennifer egan.
because i know two people who apparently know jennifer egan, facebook thought i might know her too. i do not know her, outside of the fact that she won the pulitzer three days before facebook thought we might be friends.
next there was erica jong.
i do not know erica jong. facebook thinks i maybe do. so i laughed and found this both flattering and an unwelcome reminder of how under-read i am in the area of feminist thought.
but then there was nick hornby.
NICK freaking HORNBY.
whom i have read. who facebook thinks i may know. who i would like to know and to whom, if i had any less dignity, i would write a gushing fan letter on how about a boy totally changed my eighteen-year-old life.
yes. it's true. i am facebook friends with people who are facebook friends with NICK freaking HORNBY.
i'm well aware that this should mean absolutely nothing. that, in reality, it does mean nothing. and yet it feels momentous.
and while i'm horrified to think what it says about my biographical career that i am, at present, charting its development through the increasing famousness of the people facebook thinks i may know, this does represent tangible progress.
because, when i look at them over there in the right margin and read that statement with a slightly different inflection, it rings entirely true. these are people i may know. someday.
10 March 2015
07 JULY 2011
i am a biographer.
i've been working up the nerve to say that for months. literally. i confessed this to another biographer over ethiopian the other night. about how, prior to now, "becoming" has always crept into this statement because it seemed too ballsy to state that i was, in fact, what i already am.
but a biographer is not a butterfly. it is something you are, not something you become.
every biographer i've met takes a different view of what it means to be a biographer and of how to best go about that. they're all interesting and witty and well-read and absolutely certain that the way they have been a biographer is the only way one can be a biographer.
i listen to them and take in their advice and smile and nod, knowing that- ultimately- i'm already a biographer and i'm going to be one in my own way. likely, in a way that will look like utter insanity and not make a lick of sense.
in that, i keep coming back to these two things:
the sacrifice of expectations and the suspension of disbelief.
i think these are key if you're going to actually be what, deep down, you already are. because you can't create something new unless you give up your plans for how it's going to look and you can't dream big unless you accept that anything can be.
29 JUNE 2011
here's the thing you need to know
"my father had this girlfriend" was rejected twenty-two times.
that's a lot. that's a small orchestra of people that wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. only three of them responded to say so and, 750 words ago, even contrary magazine turned her down.
getting published is an exercise in ritual humiliation for which one must have a tough skin and a hell of a cheering section.
the philosopher told me this was a good story. last spring, when i sent him the 2009 version, he said he wanted more. in december, he brought it up again. he said i should write more and so i did.
in january, kj and lindear and i were snuggled up three to a bed in the hilton garden inn downtown chicago magnificent mile, drunk off countless rainbo whiskey sours, when i read "my father had this girlfriend" to them. they said it was good. they suggested i call her gemma faye.
i still remember sensei's face, in the naked lady bar four days later. he was across the table in the window seat where we were meant to always sit and when i asked if i was just spinning my wheels and being overdramatic, he put his hand to his brow and said "my father had this girlfriend" was something anyone who'd ever loved more than one person could understand. he said, we all have a gemma faye.
we're randomly in washington d.c. at a cuban bar drinking sangria when a friend- who i'd never met but to whom libby had forwarded a link to my blog months before- mentions "my father had this girlfriend." i'd almost forgotten it, but i return to chicago, staring down a june 1st deadline, cut 750 words and submit it to contrary again because it's the only thing i have that's near ready.
a month later, k.clen- who has egged me on with breakfasts and the mantra of "FORWARD MOTION"- lets herself in my back door and finds me tucked over the computer reading the acceptance email, shellshocked by the prospect of the conversation i'm going to have to have with my parents.
my parents say yes. i honestly did not think they would.
"my father had this girlfriend" got published. which is great and all, but it feels thoroughly inadequate. because there should be end credits for published pieces. it's astonishing how many people can be involved in the production of a mere 497 words. subtract any one of these people (plus the twenty others i've not mentioned here) and there's just no way.
writing is portrayed as an isolated activity and it just isn't. it cannot be.
09 March 2015
16 JUNE 2011
i'm sitting in a concrete garden between two skyscrapers when i listen to the message from the stepbrother—my hand held to my heart in shock as a voice that, thanks to two decades of jackie o documentaries, i would have recognized anywhere, comes out of my very own phone.
it is a 3 ½ minute display of old world graciousness that was, due to a bad connection, punctuated by loud bursts that i would have interpreted as gunfire had i not known he was calling from a castle in rhode island.
this was last august. before denmark and freelancing and the whole 9/20/13 plan.
we talked three more times and then i dumped him. i didn't call, didn't write, didn't do anything. because i didn't know what to do with him. i didn't know where he fit in the story i thought i was trying to tell.
that hasn't changed. i've still no idea. but i've given myself a year. i'm throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
in that spirit, i'm meeting the stepbrother in newport this weekend.
there won't even be an attempt to play it cool here so just know: everything about that sentence scares the shit out of me. that is why i have put this off for so very very long.
calling the step-brother on the phone is an ordeal so awful that i dally for whole weeks at a time before ringing him back.
our phone calls, thus far, have been epically bad. like, horrendously, hilarifyingly bad. in the made-for-tv movie treatment of Jackie: The True Story Of The (un)Making of A Book That Never Was, the scenes comprised of these phone calls are going to earn jennifer love hewitt her biggest laughs.
i speak too softly and too fast. the step-brother appears to be calling me on a walkie-talkie from the middle of an airfield that has come under enemy fire. we speak to one another as victorians not yet familiar with the cutting-edge technology of the telephone.
there's obviously enormous room for improvement here so i'm holding out hope that it'll be me and jackie's stepbrother kicking it at the castle and that we're going to be, like, totally steller communicators when we meet face-to-face. minimal hope, mind you. but hope nonetheless.
08 JUNE 2011
there are moments when you expect everything to be crazy easy and then it isn't. then there are other times where you're certain you'll have to make a horrible fuss to get what you want, and then everything falls in your lap.
i worked the lit fest last weekend. a week ago, i wrote the volunteer coordinator asking if i could be assigned to the biography panel. she said, very kindly, that there was absolutely no way.
the assignments were being handed out first come, first serve and were entirely random. the system could not accomodate requests.
i'm standing in a cluster of author escorts at university center when the assignments are handed out. and yet, i know what my random assignment is before i even get it. somehow it's not even a shock to see the words.
assignment: author escort. hotel blake. 11:15. the art of biography.
08 March 2015
27 MAY 2011
running v. standing still
there's a jackie relative who's willing to talk to me. when we spoke on the phone last august, he said, well, you know, jackie loved parades and, as well as i think i know her, i did not know that.
i've not met with this man for a million reasons. because i didn't have the money, i didn't have the technology, i didn't have any questions and i didn't have the emotional wherewithal to arrange for a rental car in a city whose website explicitly warns that there is no available parking and it is stupid to drive.
but mostly i have not met with this man because there's a fool voice in the back of my head that says that meeting with him would somehow expose the severity of my limitations. this is the same voice that says my work should unfold in a neat and tidy way, that all risks are inadvisable and standing still is by far for the best.
i'm fairly certain that voice is a vile bitch. because neat and tidy isn't the answer. quite often you have to make a big old mess.
if you know exactly what you're doing, where you're headed and how, you will likely get there, but you might also miss out. because it's by taking the risks and the paths you never planned to go down that you wind up doing the really really interesting things. the things beyond what you can dream.
there's a jackie relative who's willing to talk to me. i'm likely imperilling his life by admitting it, but, all these months later, i am finally ready for him.
07 March 2015
26 MAY 2011
i saw the marrieds over the weekend. we toured viriginia wine country, discoursed on the masturbation cures of w.k. kellogg and, in general, ate like kings. it was lovely, lovely.
in the course of this, mrs. married said it has been hard to keep up with what i'm doing and asked what, precisely, i am working on now.
which is funny because i have no idea.
i went to washington to network with other people who love dead people and determined to sell myself as a biographical editor/researcher/assistant/anything for the very practical reason that if i'm going to keep doing this beyond august, then i'm in dire need of another revenue stream.
that was the plan. i was going to focus on getting money and worry about jackie when i got home.
when i saw her at breakfast, stacey schiff (of whose memory i am now in awe) asked, is it still all jackie all the time? and i shrugged my shoulders and said, eh, because it really wasn't.
but then people asked who my subject was and when i said jackie they kind of rolled their eyes and started to walk away and there was nothing to do but put on my full jackie: the tabloid yearsregalia and stop them and say, wait. you really don't even know.
and their eyes would widen and, by conversation's end, i'd have them nodding away and riddled with envy over the awesomeness of my research materials.
i went to washington to make money and returned ready to kill the first 150 pages of the book i wrote five years ago and begin at the beginning. with that paragraph i put down on paper in january 2004 for the first assignment in tracey weiner's "writing biography" class.
at the time, i thought it was the first paragraph of the twelfth chapter of a book i'd not yet written, but i was wrong. it's page one.
06 March 2015
25 MAY 2011
seeing the dolphin
in the mid-90s there were these posters. i'm sure they had a name, but i don't know it. regardless, there were these posters and you were supposed to stand and stare and squint at just the right angle and then suddenly, from among 800 thumbnails of al gore or whatever, the image of a dolphin would emerge.
once you'd seen the dolphin, there was no not seeing the dolphin.
and if you didn't see the dolphin, those posters just really pissed you off.
writing is like those posters. in the sense that once you've glimpsed the possibility, you can't ever not see it. nor can you really show it to someone else.
my vision of precisely what it is i'm trying to do is blurred at best, but occasionally it comes into crystalline focus. and, as though the sun has slipped out from under a cloud, there are these moments where everything is entirely possible and the path is perfectly clear.
the trouble with these moments is that they do not last. and they are few and far between. to date, i've had two.
one in new york in march as i walked down 6th avenue in the rain listening to "down in the valley" on repeat. the other this past weekend in washington, when a two mile hike to the lincoln memorial done in ill-advised flats felt like nothing because i was walking on air.
i'm not an expert, i'm barely a writer and i've no clue what i'm doing beyond the fact that i'm, at present, not writing at least four different things. but the one thing i do know is that there are these moments and they are the key.
they must be felt to the fullest. lived. savored. sunk into like a hot bath at a long day's end.
because, on most days, the only thing that rings true is that i will wind up abandoned, incontinent and riddled with mouth cancer. yet, in the midst of that black pit of impossibles, there are still these moments, and they are enough.
once you've glimpsed the possibility, you can't ever not see it. once you've seen the dolphin, it is always there.