All the other “Serious Writer” stories in my collection are told from a male perspective. Only “The Serious Writer And Her Bush" (below, a kind of counter-piece to "The Serious Writer And His Penis") assumes that The Serious Writer is a woman.
I’ve often been drawn to picking female protagonists only to find out later that it’s too hard for a man to write a woman convincingly. At least I cannot do it & I think it may be a widespread problem among male writers. Take Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” — for me, the title figure never really comes to life in the same way as Lewin, the male protagonist, does. He seems to carry the burden of the story while she carries the heavier fate.
Perhaps someone should offer a tutorial for Serious Writing (Wo)Men, “Writing as a (wo)man for wo(men).”
Here’s the story — The Serious Writer And Her Bush:
«The serious writer looks back on a long and distinguished career as an herbologist. Her favourite bush grows in Central Park and is called Noah’s Ark by the residents because of the myriad of animals that it shelters. The serious writer has given a name to every leaf and branch of the Ark, and when autumn comes, her heart slowly withers, pondering decay as the shrub sheds its summer splendour and returns to the raw.»
—From: The Serious Writer And Her Bush, in “Thank You For Your Sperm”, published by MadHat Press. This story was first published under my nom de plume Flawnt in elimae. — Photo: Central Park Bridges (Wikimedia).
He moves his household to a deserted location called Loch Llamorgan. He buys a large shovel, which he covers with tattoos lifted from a book of Maori motives. He anticipates a journey of many moons. He drives to the local liquor store and purchases supplies. He devises a plan to shelter the house from all disturbing influences: it involves a system of trenches surrounding the house, an escape tunnel from the study, and CCTV surveillance around the perimeter. He begins to dig.
When the serious writer, weeks later, finally sits down to start writing, he is exhausted and has forgotten what he wanted to write about, or why. He dolefully looks at his tool with the strange patterns on them, and at his callused hands, and he cannot hear any voices.
He composes an e-mail for an anonymous publisher expressing his sorrow over pressing deadlines, the demands of job and family, and regrets the delay in providing a synopsis. After sending the message, he lies face down in one of the ditches criss-crossing the field in front of the house, and drinks in the scent of the soil, waiting for the book to write itself.
[From: “Thank You For Your Sperm”, MadHat Press, 2013, story first published in Wrong Tree Review, 2011][Image: Atlas, drawing by Alfred Kubin, 1942]
The Austrian artist Alfred Kubin (1877-1959) was a pioneer of symbolism and expressionism. He illustrated books of Edgar Allan Poe, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Fyodor Dostoevsky and others. His only novel “Die andere Seite” (The other side) was admired by Kafka. My father was a collector of Kubin’s graphical work and passed his collection on to me. Kubin’s fantastic, absurdist novel was an important influence during my teenage years.
I never managed to get any closer to a book trailer for TYFYS than this: one of a number of songs, composed, performed, & recorded by me. Posting this reminds me of the time when I briefly studied musical composition with Michael Finnissy whose music I loved then like now, as well as John Cage’s often obscure but always energetic and never empty statements like this one, which bolsters me up right now :
“It is not futile to do what we do. We wake up with energy and we do something. And we make, of course, failures and we make mistakes, but we sometimes get glimpses of what we might do next.” —John Cage
Photo: Margaret Barr’s “Strange Children” ballett (1955), photographer unknown. State Library of New South Wales Flickr stream.
«After twenty years of marriage K. had given H. everything except children. It was clearly too late for that. Everybody said so, especially the doctors, who were the experts on childbearing. H. had been 67 when he met K., who was 37 then. Biology had spoken.
For the first few years they made love like very young people again: without regard for time or space or the many demands of grown up life, which insert themselves so easily and effectively between a couple’s genitals. K. used protection, if only because that’s what she’d always done; and as if to show that even at his age he was still a responsible adult, H. used protection also, so that they were doubly sheathed against the chance of new life. …»
A different version of this story was published in 2012 at THIS literary magazine.
What I did this morning. Look into the abyss. Only just discovered this quote by Lionel Trilling, via Vargas Llosa’s book on cultural decadence in our time (“Alles Boulevard”; Suhrkamp). Interesting how Vargas Llosa (in the German translation of the Spanish original) gets this quote by Trilling wrong. By misquoting as if the students (and not the Abyss) had said “How interesting”, which he then uses as an indicator ofcultural decadence (the students’ inappropriate answer to the deep mystery of the Abyss). It’s pretty mean, that, and typical for (semi-professional) cultural pessimists who take their ammunition from anywhere or if none’s available, fabricate it. This book doesn’t really deserve being mentioned it’s not even well written (but I also don’t like his prose and I don’t understand how anybody can like it
—maybe he is one of those writers who gain enormously in their own language?). Vargas Llosa evidently doesn’t mind a little cheating, despite his 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. Sadly he himself turns into a better example of cultural decay than the (made up) examples he presents. Needless to say, I’m not a cultural pessimist. I’m currently thinking about writing a book against cultural pessimism myself. Trouble is I don’t like cultural optimism either. Extreme positions can never reflect the complexity of truth, they can only cramp it with their zealousness. A book that does: Cultural History of the Modern Age by Egon Friedell (1927), beautifully written, too. He wrote: «We can never see the world other than incompletely: deliberately to see it as incomplete is to create an artistic aspect. »