Friday, 13 February 2015

Feeding oneself

I'm going through the submissions to the Big Truths anthology and my heart is breaking, bit by bit. How lovely all of these stories are, and also how sad. How hungry they make me. They're all about food and they're also, every one of them, not about food at all so much as they are about love and sadness and sex and hurt and fear and longing and grief, so much grief, so much memory in the way that a wafer can taste when it dissolves on your tongue.

I feel humbled and so lucky to read them.

All of this reading about food has made me think about recipes--the food kind, yes, but also the mental kind, the things that you cobble together when you want to build a life. What do you carry with you? What do you hold close and then eventually let go? What mixes with this and that to make you who you are?

I joined a gym earlier in January. I'm not terribly out of shape but there is a certain pair of favourite pants that somehow, over the course of the past year, stopped fitting. I would like to wear them again. I would like to run regularly again and feel better, have more energy, be able to do more. Fit into my favourite summer dresses. Look into the mirror and think, maybe, maybe, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe you can build a life for yourself, with your running and your writing and your trips and your music and your pictures and it will all be okay. Books or not. Writing or not. Maybe this is a recipe, too, for how to be.

I'm up north for three days as of tomorrow. Lots of snowshoeing over a frozen lake and drinking tea and watching the wind blow through the trees. There may or may not also be guacamole involved. And dogs. There will be dogs.

(To cuddle with, obviously. One can be fed in all manner of ways.)

Sometimes the urge to say something and the simultaneous inabaility to find anything to say is so strong I almost can't stand it. I want...I don't know.

I want, I guess. I want to be fed.

Maybe that's all it is.








Sunday, 8 February 2015

Starstruck

I met Roxane Gay yesterday.

Roxane Gay.

Roxane Gay.

She came to IFOA and gave a reading, and a talk. I went for a late lunch with the altogether fabulous Dana of Editorial Eyes fame beforehand, wherein we fangirled and philosophized and ruminated on all that is right (and not so much so) with Canadian publishing. We also discussed Harlequin cowboys and cowboys in kilts, as you do.

And then we went to the talk. And the room was packed and I was so thrilled for her, this writer I've come to admire so much through the years, this woman who could command this kind of space. And she was introduced and came out onto the stage and she was every bit as beautiful and powerful and amazing as I thought she'd be, and she took a photo of the crowd and had us laughing before she'd said five words, and then she asked is Janet here? meaning Janet Somerville, queen of all things book and book-related in this country, and I saw Janet wave from the back and I was happy for her and also so jealous because Roxane Gay called her out by name.

And then Roxane turned back to the audience and she said, is Amanda here? and I jumped up like an idiot, a crazy idiot, and I waved my arm and squeaked out "Yes! I'm right here!" and she smiled and looked back at the both of us and then just said, "I know them both from Twitter."

And then she began her reading and her talk and I was basically done, finished, in heaven and blissed out and whatever else you want to call it.

Roxane Gay called me out by name.

Roxane Gay called me out by name. 

It was a lovely talk. So funny. So honest. So brave in so many places. I tried to live-tweet parts of it and then had to stop because it was all too much, too hard to think about tweeting when all I wanted to do was sit and absorb and think thank you thank you thank you a hundred times over.

Topics covered: Channing Tatum (but of course), Nick Jonas, publishing two books in one year, the backlash against Bad Feminist, the love for Bad Feminist, An Untamed State's journey to publication, the struggle around the perceived need to always have something to say on the Internet, some response to whatever's going on. Also random strangers wanting hugs on the street, and Jupiter Ascending, and Bill Cosby, and how nonfiction takes the writer into all kinds of places, and how it is possible to be both a shy and public person all at once. And a hundred other things.

She was so gracious, and so funny, and the whole thing was so wonderful and I did not want it to end, but end it did, and I filed out with everyone else and took my place in line with my books clutched tight, these books of hers that I'd read and loved, these books that had saved my life in some kind of way last year, when I read them and understood that it was possible to be flawed and contradictory and still want and hunger for more, for a better self, okay to be stumbling and sad on the page and still have that be part of what one shows to the world.

And I went up to her, and gave her my books to sign, and she said, "Amanda? As in, Amanda Leduc?" and when I said yes she smiled again and said, "It's so nice to finally meet you."

I wanted to say so many things. (Like: thank you for pronouncing my last name correctly!) But you don't get a lot of time in a book signing line, so I watched her sign my copies and I thanked her and told her how happy I was that things have gone so well for her, how much I think she deserves everything that has happened as a result of her writing. I'm sure she's heard it a million times by now but I really truly do believe it.

"Thank you," she said. "That means so much."

We talked a second more about her stay in Toronto (22 hours in total, fun fun), and she said, "Next time, we should hang out," and you know, it may or it may not come to pass but oh, what a lovely thing to have someone say to you, someone you've admired for so long. 

"Yes," I said. "Yes, definitely." 

And then I got out of the line, and she went on signing books, and I met up with my friends and we dispersed back out into the snow and went our ways and it all feels like a dream now, the loveliest dream I've had in a long time.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

The echo of a precarious faith

I'm reading LOITERING by Charles D'Ambrosio right now, and in love with so much of it. In particular, these bits from the introduction:

The assumption here [in reference to St. Augustine] is that faith is not to be confused with certainty; the only thing people can really count on is longing and the occult directives of desire. So, Augustine wonders, does that mean prayer must come before faith? Illogical as it is, perhaps not-knowing is the first condition of prayer, rather than its negation. -- Patricia Hampl

I rarely researched, preferring instead to work without a net--which may simply be another way of saying that I longed to fall. To fall, that is, and to hear what the descent had to say.

Our public space has become a matter of allegiances...and as I worked on these pieces...I would wonder, in my uncertainty, where all the other people are who don't know, don't understand. Are we--the hesitant, the conflicted--all alone?

And finally this:

What I've collected here, of course, are a bunch of scrappy incondite essays, not prayers, but behind each piece, animating every attempt, is the echo of a precarious faith, that we are more intimately bound to one another by our kindred doubts than by our brave conclusions. 

That, I thought. Perhaps that is the echo I've been waiting for all of this time. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Cocooning

Back in November, when I was deep in the darkest parts of that depression, or sadness, or funk, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it (can it truly be a depression if you come out of it, if you are loved, if you are lucky, if you have so many things going for you? And on and on and on the questions go now, with the doubt), one of the things that I talked about out loud to friends was this creeping realization of my patterns as a writer. Namely, the cocoon-create-emerge-months-later rhythm that always, in the thick of it, feels so safe and rewarding.

The problem, of course, is that I embrace the isolation wholeheartedly. I disappear into my house, I make forays out for work and groceries, and that's it. I spend my weekend days dressed in pyjamas. I work and write and work and write and sooner or later I come out into the world and there's a novel, yes, but perhaps it isn't a novel that goes over very well with those who read it, and all of a sudden the thought of more cocooning makes the panic flutter like a small bird in your heart.

But I want to talk to somebody, you say. I want to talk to somebody and I want to spend a week -- or weeks -- doing something that isn't writing or work or getting groceries or cleaning all the gunk away from the taps around the kitchen sink. I want to go out. I want to live.

Doesn't that sound silly? It sounds silly to me. And still I type, still I put the word out. Still sometimes I think, deep down in my soul: is writing really living? Or is it only ever the dream of living, a dream you hope to make so real and wonderful that it will come alive for someone else?

I figured something out at the beginning of the year, I think. Something to do with structure and points of view and how to make things all come together. And now the cocooning doesn't seem so terrible anymore. Now I look ahead to the days where I can just come home from work and not go out, and I'm excited. To write. To disappear again until another draft is finished.

I feel like there's a fable in here, somehow. Something about a person who sits down to create a world and comes out to find their own world empty when it's finished, the memories of people that you used to know just floating on the wind.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

I resolve, I resolve, I resolve

So many things.

A couple of nights ago I realized that 2015 marks three years since I've been in this little attic apartment. Three. Whole. Years.

When I moved in I was using a borrowed camp mattress as my bed. I did not have a pillow. I was terrified that I would have to spend ONE WHOLE YEAR in the apartment due to the terms of lease etc, and I did not want to stay in Hamilton, I did not want to work at the hospital, I did not want I did not want I did not want.

How fast the time goes now. Three hundred and sixty-five times three.

It terrifies me, somehow. And at the same time knowing this doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would back there at the beginning. So you stop in your hometown for a while. So you rest.

Some things are marked by time, though. Yesterday I ordered three books using a Christmas bookish gift certificate. One of the books was THE UNSPEAKABLE, by Meghan Daum, who is brilliant and wonderful and all of those things that my perpetually caterpillared writer self would one day like to be.

I can't think of her now, though, without thinking of this essay.

My own Central Sadness feels never far from reach these days. I wish it were not so, but what else is there to do about it, except read and read and write and love and hope that you can catch Time in some instances, even as it speeds on right beside you? 


Friday, 2 January 2015

Devouring

"The best way I can describe the new autofictional novel: the oeuvre is the soul. The artist’s body of work, in other words, has come to replace the religious ideal of the immortal spirit." 

-- Jonathan Sturgeon, on the death of the postmodern novel

Yes, I think. And then I think: well, but maybe not entirely.

I am misreading Sturgeon, slightly. I keep reading it as the oeuvre is the soul. As though the thing that we draw our inspiration from is, in fact, the soul itself, and not the other way around. You excavate the soul in order to make your way around the world.

In other misreading adventures, at multiple times over the last few months I've found myself mistaking "devout" for "devour". Which seems appropriate. Isn't faith--or the semblance thereof, or the search for oneself in all manner of postmodern and post-postmodern and autofictions--a kind of devouring?

Don't you sink in, and go farther and farther until there's nothing left?


Thursday, 1 January 2015

In with the New

"For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice.”

― T.S. Eliot

Happy New Year, friends. Maybe it be wonderful, and filled with magic.