Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

sunday

Process Journal, 7 am: “OMFG, this is such a happy moment.”

I think I start to cry at 9:30 am. Jesus fucking Christ.

monday

The less said about Monday, the better. No, really. Let’s move on.

tuesday

I don’t know. Good, bad. Mixed up. Sad, ugly. The dominant theme is “abandoned,” which is interesting but I’m not quite together enough to explore it. And a fevered Ender—he needs to be in my arms, most of the day. But that gives me rest, is good.

I read Vladimir Nabokov’s Letters To Vera, an antidote and simultaneously a poison.

Cinder and I have a fight, sort of about math, ultimately, about power. I think we both lose.

I cry some more.

wednesday

am

I want today to be a better day, and I have pretty damn impressive will power. I do. Granted, this week it seems drowned by a flood of tears, but surely? I know the tips and tricks, tools and techniques to pull it off, pull it out.

The question is, do I want to?

I think, much as I disliked the past 48-72 hours, I needed them. Maybe I need one more sloppy, wet, weepy day. In Bone, Marion Woodman has a line:

“Don’t worry about my tears,” I said. “Better rolling down my cheeks than blocking my kidneys.”

Maybe this particular dam just needs to to… fuck I don’t know how to finish that metaphor, it’s stupid.

pm

I do some of the things but Ender has a relapse, we cuddle on the couch. You come to visit… I feel distant and don’t want to address it, I want to be inside myself right now; let me.

thursday

Thursday was… complicated.

friday

I don’t know. I suppose it was a transition day. I worked, juggled. But generally neither cried nor stressed.

saturday

I performed. Well. Do it all out, bring it all, spend it all.

I did.

I’m channelling Annie Dillard here, by the way, what she said was:

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

In the evening, I took all my nutrients for the day in a pint of Guinness. Two. Three.

I’d do penance on Sunday, I decided.

But I was lucky; I didn’t.

sunday

Sunday was… perfect. Except in the night. Crappy dreams.

WEEK 10 APPENDIX

nabokov, i

When I was seventeen, I used to write on average two poems a day, each of them taking me about twenty minutes. Their quality was doubtful, but I didn’t even try to write better then, thinking that I was performing little miracles and that over miracles I didn’t need to think.

Now I know that, indeed, reason is a negative part of creativity and inspiration a positive one, but only through their secret conjunction is the white spark born, the electrical flicker of perfect creation.

Vladimir Nabokov, Letters to Vera

notes on the discovery of the clitoris

In 1558, a Venetian professor, Matteo Realdo Colombo—he had studied anatomy with Michelangelo, btw, stumbled upon a mysterious protuberance between a woman’s legs.

So he was examining a patient and he discovered this “button” and he noted that she grew tense as he manipulated it, and that it appeared to grow in size at his touch.

“Clearly, this would require more study.”

After examining scores of other women, Colombo found they all that this same, responsive protuberance.

He reported his discovery of the clitoris to the dean of his faculty. And… he was “arrested, accused of heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, and Satanism, put on trial and imprisoned. His manuscripts were confiscated, and his discovery was forbidden to be mentioned.”

Sources: The Anatomist, by Frederico Andahazi
referenced in Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

nabokov ii

Text to Sean:

Nabokov also noticed when his friends and colleagues didn’t show up to his readings… and resented it, years, later.

I guess all artists are a little petty.

Text from Sean:

It’s not petty. But non-artists don’t understand. But I guess the still resenting it years later part doesn’t sound so good.

Nabokov also had to beg for reviews. And money. (And work.)

When he was already regarded as the foremost writer of his generation, in several languages.

Sigh. Is this perspective, or a sign that I should get a “regular people” job?

kids and dharma

Discussing Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, Sean and I make a discovery. Well. I notice—as he’s reading it, I didn’t notice it the first time—that all the dharmic lives Stephen Cope is examining, the great and the small, are single, childless people.

Then I stop. I’m wrong. Jane Goodall was married (twice) and had a son. Robert Frost had a whole gaggle of children. Marion Woodman, married. Gandhi had four kids too.

But the way Cope wrote the book—they might as well not have had them. Their children, their families do not figure in their dharma story—except, insofar as Mrs. Frost and Mrs. Gandhi and Mrs. Goodall (Jane’s mother) enabled them to live their dharma.

I get… kind of angry. And get a little homophobic: Cope is gay, at the time of writing of the book partnerless and childless. (Old, too, I add acerbically.) What does he know about a mother’s dharma?

“He says events change your dharma,” Sean says. He’s still on the Marion Woodman section of the book, in which Woodman embraces the wound, makes living with cancer her dharma (of the moment). “Children change your dharma too. Once you have them—they become your new dharma. Or part of it, anyway—they affect it. Hugely.”

As he says this, there’s an explosion of noise inside Ender’s bedroom and four eight-to-ten year old boys clamber down the stairs. Fully armed.

“I fought that, denied it for a long time,” Sean says as they run past us, down the stairs, and outside.

I don’t think I did. Or did I? I think… I always knew I had to ride both of these horses. That I would not, could not choose one over the other.

But it never was—still isn’t—an easy choice. Robert Frost never had to agonize over whether he’d be a poet or a father of four children. But I bet you Jane Goodall thought long and hard about the impact having little Hugo would have on her career, life, plans. She had to…

nabokov iii

Nabokov is in Paris… or somewhere. I can’t remember. Vera is in Berlin, on her own. with their one-year-old baby. He writes her a letter every day. Complains that she doesn’t write to him often enough.

He ends up having an affair later that year. Neglected.

From the perspective of time, it’s kind of funny.

The marriage survives.

But she never writes him as much as he writes her. Of course not.

nabokov iv

Maria Popova is writing about Zadie Smith on Brainpickings this week, and Zadie Smith is writing about Nabokov:

When I write I feel there’s usually a choice to be made between the grounded and the floating. The ground I am thinking of in this case is language as we meet it in its “commonsense” mode. The language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily “public” conversation. Some writers like to walk this ground, re-create it, break bits of it off and use it to their advantage, whereas others barely recognize its existence. Nabokov — a literal aristocrat as well as an aesthetic one — barely ever put a toe upon it. His language is “literary,” far from what we think of as our shared linguistic home.

Source: Zadie Smith, Feel Free
https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/03/08/zadie-smith-dance-lessons-for-writers/

I’ve told you about all the bad books I’ve read lately, right?

Zadie Smith tells me, “Nobody really expects to write like Nabokov.”

But… I’d rather have him as my model, mentor and inspiration, than The National Enquirer. Or my Twitter stream or Facebook feed.

And I think… I thinks she’s a little wrong about the dichotomy. What makes Nabokov Nabokov—for me, THE foremost writer of the 20th century, no one comes close—is that he used “the language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily ‘public’ conversation” in aesthetically perfect, transformative ways. Despite the fact that he read and claimed to understand Ulysses (and perhaps he did), Nabokov is perfectly, terrifyingly comprehensible.

I finish Nabokov’s Letters to Vera on Friday; it’s time to re-read… well, all of him. I’m going to start with Pale Fire. End with Lolita.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS It wasn’t a bad week, you know. Just not a simple one. And I’m really glad I let myself cry for three days. I needed it.

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

The best things in life and on the Internet are free, but content creators need to pay for groceries with money. If you enjoy the Postcards project and other Nothing By The Book content, please express your delight and support by making a donation via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

You: “But how much should I give?”

Jane: “I get $1 each time a sell a traditionally published book, so my bar’s set really low, love. Want to buy me a cup of coffee? That’s $4.75 if you’ll spring for a mocha or latte. Bottle of wine? My palate’s unsophisticated: $19.95 will more than cover it.”

If you’d like to make a contribution but have PayPal issues, email me at nothingbythebook@ gmail.com and we’ll work something out. J