Yesterday, I took back a book, very much overdue, to the library and then killed a little time by looking over the books they had available at the annual book sale. I came across a book of roughly a zillion pages called An Introduction to Literature and leafed through a few pages. It will give you some idea of the size of this book if I tell you that it contained all of the plays Hamlet and Death of a Salesman and twelve other plays, as well as a two complete short novels, plus essays, poetry, commentary, discussions of each of these entries and a good deal more. And pictures! I spotted the lyrics to Dylan’s Times They Are a-Changin'. I also noticed and was a bit intrigued by a short story by David Leavitt, who is known for, among other things, having published at the age of 20 in the New Yorker that magazine's first openly gay short story. I read a line or two of the short story of his which was included in this book (It was not the one from the New Yorker) and was somewhat intrigued – it just looked like it might interest me. As is my custom, when faced with something I should read, and which will forever after clutter my already filled-to-bursting home mostly untouched ever again by the warmth of a human hand, I purchased this book for a mere fifty cents - only 15% of the fine I had just paid for my lack of vigilance in the matter of the due date of my returned book.
I didn't know if I would even read this enormous tome beyond perhaps dipping into the Leavitt short story that had caught my eye and maybe one or two others but already this morning, worn by the elections, I sat down and started off at the beginning of the book for the hell of it and on page FIVE it has already earned back its cost by gifting me with a quote that says EXACTLY what I have come to feel about blogging - MY blogging, not other people's. It took a while to realize what I was doing for myself with this plebian form of writing – though only sometimes and only at the best of times. I had actually realized some time ago that it seemed to be giving me that awful word "closure" and allowing me to let go of times and places that were long dead. In regard to saying farewell to individual people, I had previously discovered a description that was emotionally exact in describing my feeling in a quote from Death of a Salesman, where the wife says of her failed husband, "Attention must be paid!”, because I feel exactly as she did, that neither my life nor that of a person who is subject of my writing, can be allowed to pass unmarked - even though she and I both know they will. But they will not go unremarked by ME. I, at least, will say, "Thank you" as best I can, even though in haste and poorly, and on the spur of the moment - or at least the spur of the hour or two.
The quote that rocked me with its exact perception as to what I feel and what I want (when I think about it - and I nearly always have to see what I have said and work back from that to discover what I feel or want), was from, of all people, a Japanese courtier named Lady Murasaki and she wrote it a thousand years ago about literature:
"Again and again something in one's own life or in that around one will seem so important that one cannot bear to let it pass into oblivion. There must never come a time, the writer feels, when people do not know about this."
So many people feel something of this nature; in its most mundane and annoying form it is that late night conversation (or monologue) after way too many drinks, where you hear some asshole saying of some song or writer or NASCAR winner, "But you gotta understand what this is about!" to the unmoved or uninterested or contemptuous.
When I think about writing something, I almost always forget this. And when I know what I am going to write about, I get caught up in facts and outrage and opinion and attempts to DO something or get to some thing or to make some point. But when I have just written something without thinking, and on re-reading find that I still like it, I get that this is what I was doing.