On Monday – a public holiday here in the US called Presidents Day – I spent a few hours at work during which I printed out this note from the internets and put it up next to my office door. It’s been a lifelong dream to have ironic commentary in my place of work.
On Tuesday evening I made spontaneous lasagna for the boyfriend and Critical Companion. Our kitchen table hasn’t been the same since those candles appeared…
On Friday evening I documented the despair of a lonely university teacher grading – only minutes before the boyfriend picked me up for a party in San Mateo.
On Sunday after church the boyfriend and I went shopping in Emeryville: other than a skirt from H&M and a cardigan from Old Navy, I invested in some new bold eye shadows from Sephora. I cannot imagine my American life without Sephora!
The past week was a short – only four days of work – but intense one in the life and times of me. On Wednesday I finally finished the paper for one of my incomplete grades from the spring semester of 2012 – when life was more difficult – and what materialized was a work of literary investigation which might have created more new questions than it answered. In the paper called “‘A Chronicler of One’s Own Soul’: Tracing the Limits of Varlam Shalamov’s ‘New Prose’ in his Antinovel Vishera” I once again returned to one of his more difficult prosaic works with which I’ve been struggling since 2010 but this time I attempted to analyze Shalamov’s antinovel from the perspective of his own aesthetic theory of ‘new prose’ [his way of breaking with the complex tradition of the dead Russian novel] and I think the result this time became a little more promising. I find writers’ personal conceptualization of their own writing to be a fascinating thing. While exploring Shalamov’s theory in depth, I stumbled upon the realization that everything I have ever written myself thus far in life goes explicitly against all of Shalamov’s implicit discussions of his own prose. I’m not against imaging or inventing anything when it comes to producing literary narratives; if the final word has yet to be pronounced I am more than capable of fabricating such a last statement through my own imagination. As a matter of fact it appears that my artistic method consists in occupying an element from reality [or from ‘lived experience’ if that better floats the reader’s boat] and then elaborating further on it until I’ve reached a point beyond it, a place that is essentially inter- or metatextual [as opposed to extratextual (which is where we find ‘lived experience’]. I don’t think Shalamov would’ve approved of my aesthetics; probably he would’ve interpreted my narrative strategies as ‘violence’ toward my material. I could also choose his method as my own but I think the prospect of creating incomplete or incoherent narratives holds me back from attempting to simulate his theory of prose through the practice of my own prose. I don’t think I’ve written anything yet this year. That is a sad fact to contemplate for someone who once took pride in calling herself a writer. The reasons are multifaceted, of course, but most of all I contribute this sad fact to unfortunate extratextual circumstances. Writing is premised on having – or making – time to think at length and undisturbed. So far during this year I’ve had so much else on my plate – teaching, studying, researching, administrating, enjoying a thriving private life, etc. – that writing for fun and for myself always seems to end up last on my list of priorities. Hopefully this will change. But I’ve also noticed that writing originates from a place of dissatisfaction; misunderstand me correctly now, but it appears to me that the writing of fiction happens when one is struggling to express something one has experienced but has no way of articulating without resorting to the fateful practice of literary narratives. But before one gets to the stage of articulation – i.e. writing – there must be some kind of internal intellectual processing which transcends the immediacy of personal or lived experience and thus acquires a dimension of ethical, philosophical, or artistic importance. One can of course write without anything of the above, but in my own individual case I have noticed that I cannot. I do not wish to write without having a bigger picture of significance in mind; something which makes writing an act impossible not to carry out and the writing itself almost an occasion for inner, spiritual, investigation. There are many things in my life right now that I could write about: my father died, I converted to Orthodox Christianity, and I’ve realized that two years ago I was so innocent and naïve about everything in life that it blows my mind today. So why don’t I write about that? I think the problem is that I’m still within the process of experience when it comes to these things. I tried to write about my six years in Russia only to realize that I cannot write about that time before I come to a comprehensible conclusion about myself then. The more you live, the more certain periods of your life – even though they took up even years in actual time – become so compressed that one sentence could be enough to represent them. Now that I have concluded that I was innocent and naïve two years ago, I almost want to generalize and state that I was innocent and naïve throughout those six years I spent in Russia. My initial vision to narrate the intellectual development of one young Swedish blonde in the Russian province thus has become nothing but a negative conclusion: I arrived naïve and innocent and six years later I left slightly less naïve and innocent but still pretty much the same. The Russian stories I would have wanted to tell at an earlier point – when I was first entertaining this grandiose vision – now seem to make little sense to me. But I attribute that realization to my present state of mind. Nothing can change the past like the present. The present state of mind dictates everything when it comes to representations of the past. Maybe when I overcome this period of fragmented disillusion may I allow myself to go back and explore that which once was. Now all my past struggles seem inferior to that which I survived after them because my greatest internal battle wasn’t the voluntary experience of becoming an adult but the involuntary experience of becoming an adult – I lost my father way too early in life and until I can come to terms with what that means nothing else can ever have meaning. In the past as well as in the present – or in the future for that matter.