Have been meditating lately on the notion of an invisible community—have been thankful to have this communion with fellow contemporary writers and artists who inhabit this space, such quick and sympathetic minds. Also the invisible community that haunts my landscape, writers of the past, my fellow ghosts, sometimes gentle, other times tortured.
And the writers we give each other to read - what a gift. Repat Blues writes of my giving her Danielle Collobert - although Collobert is not mine to give! It's funny this idea of giving someone Collobert, like a book or author as disease, which maybe it is, in a way, a dis-ease, Sexton's hereditary red shoes. But Collobert was urged on me by someone else, a writer friend I much admire, and I have been also slowly developing a relationship with her notebooks, afraid sometimes to dip into it, afraid of an uncomfortable mirror. And I think it can be too much pressure, that identification when we find new mothers & sisters when we have not wrestled with ambivalences with the old (have we finally emerged from Gilbert/Gubar's anxiety of authorship? or we now burdened by this new, nervous anxiety of influence, finally, after a century?) But anyway, Collobert is not mine to give - but we do not own any writers! Although I feel far more of an intimacy with Elfriede Jelinek or Anna Kavan (who I hope to write about, soon, I am returning to her works, after this consideration), or Jean Rhys, or Jane Bowles. Writers who I confuse as my mothers, my sisters, my friends, as lovers even, intimates. (Repat-Blues also talks about this in her latest post, aligning these writers such as Collobert or Acker with her mother, then seeing them as mothers).
Perhaps for this brief rambling on the erotics of reading there is no more perfect writer to discuss than Duras. Duras who I have fled from. Sometimes it can be a burden, the intimacy those we admire share with these author-lionesses. Duras was this towering figure for me. Duras is the one I was nervous about reading, like I wrote too about Ingeborg Bachmann, because she is such an important writer to so many contemporary writers who I admire. But I distanced myself from Duras, I thought, I am not like her, she cannot speak to me, she of the anorexia, of the soulful mood.
Actually, I am not being exact. Hiroshima mon Amour is one of the most important texts to me, even though it is a work of cinema. Like Dreyer's Joan of Arc, I quote from it in almost everything I write. It is the work of trauma for me (Caruth writes about it too), the work of identifying with mass atrocity, of war, the cinematic companion to "Lady Lazarus" or the plays of Sarah Kane. Emmanuelle Riva alone, mad, in the cellar, licking the saltpeter, mourning viscerally her lost childhood, her lost love.
But Duras' fiction (can we call them fiction? am beginning to feel that word is dirty, mercantile) I have not returned to since college, where I read The Lover & Moderato Cantabile & The Malady of Death alongside Anais Nin's journals. The summer I lost my innocence in so many ways, ways I won't describe here. But it was the summer I became a woman, I suppose, and felt ever ambivalent about it ever since, giving my body freely, and then of course for a price (as there is always a price).
But as I have written I have had difficulty reading lately, I have been lost, aimless. And The Lover was on my nightstand three nights ago. I should have been sleeping. I picked it up. I rejoiced in the text. Like Nicole Brossard, I rejoiced in Duras' commas, these gorgeous interrupting bodies (Duras is for commas like Woolf is for semicolons, I think). I forgot so much. Perhaps I never really, read it. I forgot how this is a work of memory, much like Nathalie Sarraute's Enfances, a work that is so important to me. And that this was a work of the mother-lover, the mother-lover in all of her ambivalence, memories of whom Duras is frozen by (as Irigaray writes "with your milk, mother, I have drunk la glace." La glace a play on mirror and ice. The one we identify with, the one who paralyzes us). This is what my Book of Mutter is about, my real mother, "the beast, my mother, my love," as Duras writes, who I had a tortured affair with, who died in such a terrible, anonymous way, also about a cast-off sister, and then my other illegitimate mothers & sisters, Joan of Arc, Henry Darger, Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Loden, Virginia Woolf.
I read this work, I gulped it, I had been thirsty for so long, desirous of it. The sudden switches from first to third person, that distancing. The way she reenters the scene on the ferry time and time again. This event in her life as her coming to writing. I read as if I was dreaming, it was such a lucid dream, I was so thankful. A release, finally.
The story of my life doesn't exist. Does not exist. There's never any center to it. No path, no line. There are great spaces where you pretend there used to be someone, but it's not true, there was no one. The story of one small part of my youth I've already written, more or less - I mean, enough to give a glimpse of it. Of this part, I mean, the part about the crossing of the river. What I'm doing now is both different and the same. Before, I spoke of clear periods, those on which the light fell. Now I'm talking about the hidden stretches of the same youth, of certain facts, feelings, events that I buried. I started to write in surroundings that drove me to reticence.
In the books I've written about my childhood I can't remember, suddenly, what I left out, what I said. I think I wrote about our love for our mother, but I don't know if I wrote about how we hated her too, or about our love for one another, and our terrible hatred too, in that common family history of ruin and death which was ours whatever happened, in love or in hate, and which I still can't understand however hard I try, which is still beyond my reach, hidden in the very depths of my flesh, blind as a newborn child. It's the area on whose brink silence begins. What happens there is silence, the slow travail of my whole life. I'm still there, watching those possessed children, as far away from the mystery now as I was then. I've never written, though I thought I wrote, never loved, though I thought I loved, never done anything but wait outside the closed door.
This last quote is my new epigraph to Book of Mutter, along with a quote by Thomas Bernhard. A wonderful feeling to be reborn by a text. An insomniac who finally slept. A feeling of awakeness, of bliss, I don't even get from writing, I can only get from reading, that discovery. And now I have read Destroy, She Said, and just got The Ravishing of Lol Stein from the public library, along with Wuthering Heights (my interest in the Bronte renewed after reading Bataille on the work in his Literature and Evil, comparing Bronte to Sade).