Thursday, August 30, 2007

Slow Jo Clo

Earlier this year I met Pankaj Mishra at a festival in The Hague. Ever since reading The Romantics in 1996 I've admired his writing and read nearly all of his articles in The New York Review of Books. My father's colleagues helped him while he was a fellow at the NYPL, and my sister took care of Barbara Epstein, his mentor, while she was dying of lung cancer. I've also always had an interest in Indian politics, and one of my former professors is an expert on Kasmir.

I was very nervous meeting Pankaj, and was unable to drive across the first impression I dreamt of beforehand. What was I expecting. But somehow I always have this fantasy, and I'm sure it's not uncommon, that I'll meet someone like him whom I've admired for so long, and he'll be just as happy to meet me, and in one glittering moment he'll recognize something unique in me and want to be friends... Perhaps it's just an overactive imagination, but I swear he noticed me sitting there in the audience.

Of course none of this happened. And besides, from close up you can see all of my large pores, and acne scars, and then it's all over, the admiration from afar of the blond beauty.

It was all such a disappointment I've decided catching glimpses of people, and then introducing myself, doesn't do me any good.

When I told him I was a writer, too, he asked if I'd written a novel, and I said, no, but I'm working on one. To which he replied, "Oh, so you're a slow writer." Yes, Pankaj, I am a slow writer.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lentilles Blondes

I am a dried blond lentil roasting in the sun.
If I were cheese slices I'd be oozing in fat.
But I am a dried blond lentil melting in the sun.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Stopping, stalling, hemming, hawing...

So I got the chairs, and I'm using one of them as a rest for the story I've been worsteling with. It's sitting there in uncomfortable jumbles. And I know that fear and laziness are the two things stopping me from going further with it. Of course, I also wonder continually, is it really worth the effort. Do I really want to expose myself in such a way? Everything I write is based on personal experience, so I'm always giving away a little bit of myself. Maybe it isn't even interesting for other people to read about an old boyfriend. Problem is, I have a scattering of memories about him, and a lot of pontificating about the past, but none of it holds together. So I'm afraid of writing more, and creating an even bigger discombobulated mess. Maybe it's better to quickly jot down pages of garbage, and to take it from there. But I'm always stopping myself from doing so. Because I know that, once I get to that phase, there's a lot of agony involved in making it into a viable story for anyone other than myself to read.

Lawn Chairs

I can't go to the "koopzondag" (shopping sunday) in my slippers. But that's what I was about to do after a few beers on a sunny day. I wonder, what the hell am I doing? A friend asked me to write a story for his catalog, so I'm trying, and getting nowhere at all. So I think, why not run off to get some lawn chairs before the shopping sunday ends at 5? I could have a few more decent chairs for company from the States in the garden, not to mention our own bottoms. And here I am. Mind going askew. Wondering why the hell I confine myself at home when the weather is perfect. Not something we get a lot of in Holland... Never mind. Never mind at all.

Where's the Bunny? Where's the goddam hat?

It's as though my brain were tied in knots. I want to write. I tell myself everyday that I have to become a writer, and I do write. It isn't a complete lie. But it's something that comes so spontaneously. I can't will it. If someone says to me, write me something, and I'll publish it, I can think, okay, this is a great opportunity, but it doesn't motivate me to do anything. I'm still stuck in the doldrums. I'm stuck with whatever I wrote when I was feeling inspired.


One of my main problems is my fear of my own scribblings! Shock! I once read that Sam Beckett hated everything he ever wrote. Well, I am no Sam Beckett, but I can sympathize. When I write something I have a personal feeling of writhing at ever re-reading it, let alone re-writing, or re-working. I get an idea, some days are better than others, type it it into Word, and that's it. Sometimes, months later, I go back to admire myself. Then I think, we'll I'm not so bad, after all. One of my main questions is: Am I doomed to live in this state of insecurity until my mind withers?


Okay, The Netherlands isn't exactly known for its waffels. For a great authentic sugary waffel-kick, you'd need to be someplace in Belgium, about 50 minutes by train from here to Antwerp. But the kind of waffeling I'm referring to here isn't the kind you can eat. It's the kind I've been doing for the past several years while mothering, being pulled in various directions, wondering where I should be, who I should be, what I should be doing. One of my principle questions: Why do I keep calling myself a writer? Why am I not willing to part with this idea? It's one of the great downfalls of being a relativist, a self-abnegationist. Self-abnegation als kunst.