Thursday, December 07, 2006

Easing into the Holidays

I am going through a squeeze of little inspiration, sort of like getting stuck in the birth canal, which is always hard on me, because I still think I exist only in my writing-- or at least more completely, as I feel most alive when I am writing. I remember Howard Auster, Gore Vidal's longtime companion and partner, said that Gore could live in LA because "he can write here." I happen at the moment to be reading Gore's second, and I would assume, last memoir. It is, as always with him, brilliantly written and emotionally contained. A gay friend of mine said he was afraid it would become sentimental when he wrote of the death of Howard.. But that never needed to be a worry. When I visited the two of them in Ravello some years ago--'86, I think it was--(Howard said, rather testily, "Gore didn't tell me you were coming,") I asked Gore if he had ever written a personal book. He said "I am not a personal man." I was in the throes of grieving, still, for my young husband, how much he had meant to me which I didn't realize fully till he was gone, traveling a world that seemed to offer only bad guys as replacements, one of whom I had tripped over in Hong Kong, and I grieved for him, too, that he was a lout, which meant, I suppose, that I was really sorrowing over my own feelings for him. "Men understand that sex means nothing; that it's just for fun," Gore said at dinner. "The trouble with women is they think their feelings matter." I did not punch him at the time, because I was still so impressed by him that argument was out of the question. Still, Howard complained that he felt like he was eavesdropping. But no one needed to be afraid Gore would get mawkish, though it's interesting how much he loved Howard's singing. It feels very 19th century to be writing "I've been reading..." as writers used to write each other with their plumes. But I do remember, and vividly, when Maureen Stapleton was dating George Abbott-- I believe he was 93 at the time, and they would go out dancing-- he wrote her, and she read his letter to me "I've been reading The Pretenders. I understand it's supposed to be about Billy Rose." Their romance ended when he started going out with other people, and she was hurt. "Don't tell me," he said, and she repeated to me, "you're one of those women who's jealous." Other women. 93. Lawd a Mercy. I also remember Oscar Levant's saying "The night June stabbed me, I was reading the Life of Berlioz." Some there are who think always in terms of biography. But this defining myself only by what I am in the process of writing, or what is on the celestial blackboard for possible happy surprises from what is already writ and out there is a sad and folly-filled thing. Richard Gilman, a fabled teacher at Yale, just died and in his obit they quoted his having written "the American compulsion to take your identity from your profession with its corollary of only one trade to a practitioner may be a convenience to society but is burdensome and constricting to yourself." I hope my writing is never as elaborate and self-conscious as that, but he was smart, and remains right, even in the Afterlife, which I hope there is one for academics. This life we have right now, though, although obviously blessed(I can walk Mimi in the morning, without wincing before the weather, and they have forgotten to turn off the heat in the pool yet, so I can still swim, and oh yes, let us not forget I can get out of bed in the morning, and am at loving peace with my son) is nonetheless difficult for me as I feel no sense of purpose, in spite of my burgeoning skills as baby-sitting Grandma. I remember when I was passionately writing Marriage, I asked Jack, my Jewru, if I could put aside my spiritual work till I finished the novel-- I used to sit for an hour in the morning before going to my typewriter, it still was then. And Jack said "Your writing is your spiritual work." That was at once freeing and elevating, but then, the book was good, and completely engaging of my energies. I have nothing like that right now, and feel incomplete and restless. But then I am alive, and that, in spite of my once optimism about the Afterlife, is to be cherished.
Here are some things that constitute loss:
The undelivered gift
The occasion uncommemorated
The loving word unheard
Or Unexpressed. _______________________________________________________________________Check