Monday, July 14, 2008

some (further) notes on Diane Schoemperlen

I'm at the beginnings of Diane Schoemperlen's novel Our Lady of the Lost and Found (which, according to her facebook status recently, she just sold the movie rights), and keep wanting to quote from her endlessly;
But much as I may be as superstitious as the next person, I seldom think of myself as lucky. I do consider myself extraordinarily privileged to be able to make a living doing what I love the most. I realize that few people can say the same. But I do not like to think that the course of my life has been determined solely by luck. I like to think it all depends on what you do with what you are given. I think of myself has having made a series of decisions and then worked hard to end up here.
And then there's this part, that made me laugh out loud at that Carleton Tavern last week, making the waitress think I had some kind of mental instability, I'm sure:
I heard the mailman and went to see what he had brought. All writers have intense relationships with their mailmen, whether their mailmen know it or not. There were the usual pizza flyers, credit card bills, and letters from charitable foundations requesting donations. There were catalogs from a computer warehouse and an outdoor clothing manufacturer. There was a letter from a former student asking me to write her a grant recommendation and one from a graduate student who wanted to know why I had used the word apparently forty-one times in my last book. There were no checks.
It was the "apparently" bit that made me laugh; but why, for a writer from Kingston, is her book in American spelling? It really bugs me, for some reason; why can't an American audience conform to a writer's own national spelling (damn you, Chicago Manual of Style), let alone an audience from that same country?

The most recent novel, which I spent the later part of the week previous reading, was a bit harder; At A Loss For Words, which came out last fall (took me less than two days, I think, to go from start to finish); a novel about a writer who can't get work done because she's got her heart completely broke. Not a novel I'd necessarily recommend if you're living exactly in the same. When she emailed me originally about such a week earlier, she quoted from such:
I said, A few weeks ago I watched a television documentary about veterinarians. They were discussing how to decide when it's time to have your ailing animal put to sleep. They said that if your beloved pet is having more bad days than good, then it's time. I certainly did get to a point where I was having more bad days than good! But I'm doing a lot better now.

You said, I do not believe in euthanasia. (p 154)
I rather like this quote as well, from earlier in same:
I am thinking about how, early on in this, I told Kate that I wanted to share every little thing with you all the time, and I didn’t understand this insatiable need I now had to tell you everything: every thought that crossed my mind, every meal I ate, every boring and mundane thing I did in a day (from cleaning the oven after having not done so for two years to getting my hair cut to having my teeth cleaned to washing down the bathroom from ceiling to floor and every surface in between). Sometimes it was as if my life had become a story I was telling you, as if I were now living in a novel or a movie and narrating every movement I made for you and only you, my singular and spellbound audience.

To Kate, I said, Sometimes this drives me crazy. Why is this happening? What's wrong with me?

And Kate said, gently, That's just the nature of love: it makes you want to share your whole self with your loved one. (pp 92-3)
And then there's this part, from a bit earlier:
Gloria Steinem once said of writing that it was the only thing that, when she was doing it, she wasn’t constantly thinking she should be doing something else. (I have just spent forty-five minutes searching for this quotation.) It is to this state of writerly nirvana that I aspire.

But these days it seems that writing (or trying to write and failing to write) is the only thing that, when I'm doing it, I'm constantly thinking of all the other things I
should (or could) be doing instead. But that's not strictly true either. To make matters worse, when I'm doing most of those other things, I feel guilty and am constantly thinking I should be writing (or trying to write and failing to write) instead.

In this lurching, peripatetic manner, nothing gets done. (pp 32-3)
Just as New York City fiction writer Paul Auster has made a career out of writing characters who happen to also be writers, Diane Schoemperlen seems to have made a career out of writing characters who fall in and out of love, and only sometimes happen to be writers (the narrator in Our Lady of the Lost and Found, for example, is a writer between books). Is there a difference?

related posts: my previous thought on Diane Schoemperlen;

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