lost books and pleasing

A Letter to… you.

Today I was missing lost books. Particularly the full set of Anais Nin’s diaries which I bought with my babysitting money. How I would love to read them again…ah the things we have loved and lost. I could, of course, check with the library but it just wouldn’t be the same. I wanted to recapture that essence of myself in the pages.

I finally watched Catherine Breillat’s La belle endormie, her very particular telling of the tale of sleeping beauty, which I found quite magical until the point where she grew up, at which point my interest faded slightly. Her stories and their images as always were mad with magical loveliness and I lost myself in them.

How often I find myself pausing at beauty lately, whether it’s a turn of a phrase or an image, and this movie had several of each which left me truly mesmerized. Rather than post the film’s trailer, which makes the movie seem silly and sort of arbitrarily raunchy (there is definitely sex, but this is Breillat, and she is French), I chose one image, from one of my favorite scenes, and it heads this post.

Equally awed and humbled I am in reading what I started long ago, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. It appeared far too many times as an answer on those “What book affected/inspired you the most” lists that authors suffer through when interviewed, so I finally bought it, albeit a bit skeptical. Soon after I gave my copy to my son who needed something to read.

Over the holidays we had a brief conversation about the power and magic of words and I read him a paragraph, for it is a book to be read aloud, to hear and feel, so visceral and dark yet at the same time of such devastating beauty. I flipped through it for a passage to quote here but there are simply too many I loved, passages which made me stop reading just to savor the way the words danced in my mouth, in my mind.

Now the reason why I claim this to be a letter, which it is, I suppose, for all blogs are… I was probably among the first to subscribe to Stephen Elliott’s Rumpus letter-writing brilliance. Two letters thus far, which have brought me great pleasure. It is a concept of such radical simplicity which has made me consider what it is about letters that I missed.

Elliott’s emailed sometimes-daily missives were a taste of this–they feel intimate and personal, and remain a highlight of my day.  I wince with worry, though, that fame will change that (fearing that once you become a topic on morning news shows it’s all over…), that knowing that these “letters” are read by so many will somehow alter his voice, will rob from his writing that glorious random freedom of thought and tone. When he refers to his past one too many times I wish I could whisper in his ear, “I know, I remember…” somehow saving him from having to recount it again, letting him know that I understand. Audiences can be cruel. I don’t mean to be. Our pasts mold us into who we are, backstories give richness to our tales, but at some point they lend a richer tone to them if they remain stewing in the minds of our readers. Or not. Who am I to say? Anyway I am a huge fan, regardless.

I have been thinking about letter writing as well as reading, and why we write. Michelle Williams said this about Marilyn Monroe, who she studied in depth for her role playing her:

“Everything was for people. Everything was to get a reaction out of people. To get love, to get attention, to get appreciation. Everything that she did was designed for that purpose and to give people pleasure, so that they would give her something in return.

To give people pleasure… that gave me pause. Do all creators want that? I suppose they do, whether consciously or unconsciously, some seeking it in ways less obvious or more unconventional or unexpected. I suppose the problem arises when the creator tries too hard to please that he risks destroying precisely what does.


2 thoughts on “lost books and pleasing

  1. I love those letters from Stephen, though I have to admit to being a newcomer. Have you read the essay by chatham? It’s insanely good. Came out a couple days ago.

    1. He’s amazing that SE, just an amazing writer with a way of thinking that never ceases to surprise. I’m sure once his movie comes out his stardom will multiply. Now as to that essay…do you have a link?

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