Upon reading the lyrics of Joanna Newsom’s new album, Divers, one is filled with an acute sense of despair and wonder. How is it fair that one woman should possess all of these gifts?
I want so badly to write this thing, this thing I have been mulling over for about a year, but I realized that I cannot write a good narrative. I don’t know how to write dialogue; I can only tell. I am afraid of mimicking the way people speak. In the same moment, I realize I am also afraid of cats, in a fundamental way. I am afraid of cats, like I am afraid of writing dialogue, because I do not understand how they work.
(I should not be blogging. I have had wine.)
I love how much my husband loves women artists. It is a rare thing in a man, I think.
I don’t think I could ever have a cat, even though I admire them from afar. For one, I abhor keeping any pet that shits in your house. For another, I mistrust an animal that has no sense of mercy.
At a recent dinner, in front of a table full of super-intelligent, beautiful, agnostic women, I admitted that I went to church on a regular basis. I felt shy and exposed, and felt like I should have stopped myself, but I was received kindly and graciously, without apparent judgment. Some of them seemed curious about this admission. We talked freely about religion and what we liked about it, what we felt it could add to our lives.
“Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos (no less) and we can accomplish this only by the most vigilant exercise of choice, but in a world that changes more swiftly than we can perceive there is always the danger that our powers of selection will be mistaken and that the vision we serve will come to nothing. We admire decency and we despise death but even the mountains seem to shift in the space of a night and perhaps the exhibitionist at the corner of Chestnut and Elm streets is more significant than the lovely woman with a bar of sunlight in her hair, putting a fresh piece of cuttlebone in the nightingale’s cage. Just let me give you one example of chaos and if you disbelieve me look honestly into your own past and see if you can’t find a comparable experience…”
— “The Death of Justina,” John Cheever
3 thoughts on “Short flight, free descent”
Why don’t you try telling the story by writing it as you would talk to a friend? Don’t worry about the dialogue. You can revise later. Just get it on the page.
I always think fear is the best place to write from, if you can get over the door-sill into the actual writing. If you’re afraid, then you’re humble–you want to serve the story and not yourself. If you’re not afraid, you’re probably overconfident, and that will make you precious about your words.
Dialogue intimidates me too – it’s the main reason I chose poetry over fiction! I got a cat in college because I could not have a dog yet…that was 18 years ago, and Nina has been a most wonderful cat, but will be my last.