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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Genius and Despair

Reading Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood this morning, I'm tempted to give up blogging. I'm tempted to give up any writing at all, including mundane necessities like emails and cover sheets. No, I shall simply call, and give up writing altogether. Because never, ever, ever will I be able to write anything remotely as funny, macabre, sad, and unexpected as that which flows forth from Ms Atwood. Take:

I live in a house, with window curtains and a lawn, in British Columbia, which is as far away from Toronto as I could get without drowning. The unreality of the landscape there encourages me: the greeting-card mountains, of the sunset-and-sloppy-message variety, the cottagy houses that look as if they were built by the Seven Dwarfs in the thirties, the giant slugs, so much larger than a slug needs to be. Even the rain is overdone. I can't take it seriously. I suppose these things are as real, and as oppressive, to the people who grew up there as this place is to me. But on good days it still feels like a vacation, and an evasion. On bad days I don't notice it, or much else.

Or take:

Jon left me the key in an envelope under the mat, and a note saying Blessings, which is a measure of how much he's softened, or mellowed. Blessings is not his former style. He's temporarily in Los Angeles, doing a chain-saw murder, but he'll be back before my opening.

Or, a page later:

Jon has told me he isn't sure this hacked-up body-part stuff is the sort of thing he should be doing. It's too violent, it doesn't contribute to human goodness. He's coming to believe in human goodness in his old age, which is certainly a change; I've even found some herbal tea in the cupboard. He claims he'd rather make friendly animals for children's shows. But as he says, you have to eat, and there's just more demand for hacked-off limbs.

3 Comments:

Blogger Eric said...

I know the feeling of reading someone who makes you want to never try to write anything ever again. When last I read Joan Didion I said to my girlfriend, "I don't say this very often, but she makes me want to never try to write anything ever again," and my girlfriend said, "Are you kidding? You say that all the time."

She's sort of right. I say that about Philip Roth too, at least. So I said, "Okay--she makes me want to make everyone else never try to write again, either."

9:55 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Yes, great art can be so depressing. It's little wonder that small men who became tyrants burn books straightaway. It has less to do with controlling the masses, perhaps, than with being reminded of one's own smallness.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Siggy said...

Oh---Atwood. Cat's Eye. MMMMMM!

My prescription for feeling better about your writing is to pick up culinary mysteries--terrible, terrible writing in every one I've ever seen. It invariably leads to "I can do better than that!" syndrome.

12:56 AM  

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