Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Mary! I Have a Horrible Feeling I Didn't Put Out My Cigarette. Will You Take a Look? (Or: Don't Be Ridiculous. The Sun Can't Be Up. I Blew It Out.)
These images come from the January-February 1954 issue of Adult Psychology, a magazine that Mark picked up for me in Amherst. Among its many topics:
JOAN CRAWFORD'S Secret Life.
KINSEY: Can He Help Your Sex Life?
Will Your Child Take DOPE?
It's Fun, But Is It LOVE? Test Yourself.
How to Stop Worrying.
I haven't read any of these very closely, but I can already guess that mental health is the least of its concerns. A little sass and sleaze in a respectable Reader's Digest-like package--I guess that says a little something about the order of the day. You probably could have taken this to the cash register in Westport without embarrassing yourself and your children.
It was hard not to look at Example B and Example D--you probably have to embiggen these--without thinking of Lydia Davis, whose work wants to break down and play with the ongoing obsession with naming and classification. I only wish I could show these to her because I think they'd make her smile.
Lydia's work has been much on my mind, as I've given myself a challenge that she's talked of setting for herself--to write at least one one-paragraph story per day over a given period. Here she says a few things about that assignment:
"...I was to write without thinking too hard ahead of time about where the story would go, and certainly not thinking ahead to what it would mean--I have never done that. Since I was forcing myself, this produced some curious work: I was allowing my subconscious more of a role than I usually did, and it came out with some interesting themes, subjects, and images. I did not censor what came out, or even revise the paragraph radically--I worked on it only within the bounds of what it had itself established in the way of structure, tone, and imagery...." (from the back pages of Best American Poetry 2008 )
I've always assumed that forcing oneself to write would only lead to the dutiful, the willed, and it's, well, enlightening (that's a word she's made good fun of in one story) to think that that one might have access to different impulses in that condition. I'm too close to what I've written--I've done two since yesterday, onto the third tonight--to know whether they're any good or not, but I'm interested in their neutral, shell-shocked tone. And if they fail? Well, it's a relief to do some sketches this week.