Monday, August 2, 2010
Went to the Akron Art Museum yesterday, which is this really crazy modern building in downtown Akron, the city commissioned a Viennese architectural firm to add on an addition so that these futuristic wings literally straddle the older Victorian building. I can't decide whether it's totally ugly or not, but it's certainly striking and one of the most interesting parts of Akron.
There's also a really extraordinary permanent collection at the museum, really impressive for a regional art museum, with as many pieces I think by women artists as by the typicals. A Helen Frankenthaler sits next to the deKooning, there's a Yayoi Kusama and a Lee Bontecou sculpture, an installation by Doris Salcedo, one of my favorites, a video by Joan Jonas, two wonderful Cornell-like assemblages by this Ohio artist La Wilson who I wonder if I should interview for the essay collection. Yesterday there was a Cindy Sherman untitled still up that I hadn't seen and a new Kiki Smith series of lithographs, Banshee Pearl, both of which I feel personify where I'm at right now. In the photo Cindy Sherman wore a blonde wig and was in bed, stiffly, like a horror film, face sweaty, black bedsheets pulled up to her chin. The Kiki Smith I've seen before, I think, it's called Banshee Pearl, and a series of lithographs of drawings, photocopies, etc of Kiki's face. It kind of expresses how schizophrenic I'm feeling lately, how many different personas I'm supposed to be wearing, but cannot, somehow. I looked at it and I thought, the divided self, metaphoric of the feminine condition.
I'm in this place right now where I seemingly have SO many orphaned manuscripts and manuscripts I'm supposed to be doing something with that I feel there's not room for new generation of ideas, which is my favorite part of the writing process. Chris is reading the essay collection now, she called me this weekend to tell me she's reading, and I think I blacked out after she said the word rewrite, which is so strange of me, I mean, I was bred as a journalist, I don't know when I've become so sensitive, why I think my prose is so deathless. Writing should be about failure, about rewriting. But I began to realize that rewriting this collection will be a long process, and after the weekend I feel much more equipped for it now, to put my queer shoulder to the wheel, but still worried, like I was as a child, wanting approval desperately. So stupid of me. Plus I have to cut 25,000 words, which will be difficult for me. I will have to step away from it for a bit and once I come back I will have some distance, hopefully.
Then there is my novel Green Girl, which a couple of you have read, and it's so strange, the rapturous feedback I get from real readers as opposed to the chilly dismissal of editors, agents, etc. I feel trying to publish this novel is like a full-time job, almost. I want it to be out in the world so desperately, to be read. Then there's my anti-memoir of orphaned myths and broken women, The Book of Mutter, which I've been advised to cut 40 pages from, and I have no idea how to do that, and I've been rewriting this book for about 5 years now, I hope to send it to a few open periods in August. These past two books I feel I've just had forever, have rewritten forever, have pimped out forever, it's exhausting, and both of them are like how I was as a child, square pegs in round hole, you're just a square peg in a round hole, Katie. Then there is Under the Shadow of My Roof, my transgressing triptych, I need to spend real time on it, I need to cut it but I keep on adding to Monkey's notebook, I just ordered up the memoirs of Carolyn Jessop, one of the wives who escaped from Warren Jeff's compound, and that is where I experience the most joy, going through theory and trash equally to steal from gleefully. I experience so much joy in the process of writing and so much dampness in the process of editing. But I've decided that Shadow is really a work battling ideas of pleasure and infuriating difficulty in reading, I'm really thinking of the experience of the reader, on one hand the reading of it is quite pleasurable, but it's a naughty pleasure, some of the sections are quite hot, but it's a disturbing hot, and then some of it is quite opaque, as I play often with the pastiche, you are unsure at times what narrative I've pulled from, and whose strand of narrative to read, deciding whose throat to slit, as Vanessa Place said to me. But in some ways it's such a bad, mad text, I wonder who will ever publish it, I mean, there are fictional porns in the book based on torture camps, I draw heavily from romance novels to write of a daddy/daughter affair (which so many of these romance novels are about, anyway), and I wonder if I've gotten myself into another position where I've written a completely unpublishable book, although all in different ways. I feel perversely proud of this and yet also so fatigued, so tired, of the process.