Saturday, August 6, 2005

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Maybe I've been spending too much time with this biography of Emily Dickinson; I found "Emily Dickinson post-Zoloft" hysterically funny. Or perhaps I've spent too much time alone, upstairs, with my work...

The ever-hilarious (that's pronounced long-vowel-sound "i"-larious, in honor of my grandmother) Aunt B. over at Tiny Cat Pants suspects her cat may be the mad poetess of Amherst, reincarnated, and who am I to disagree? They are certainly up to no good, those cats, with all those unsupervised hours and their utter moral turpitude.

Elsewhere (and if you are guessing, by now, that these are things I meant to post about sooner, but that got lost in the final throes [spasms, paroxysms] of the Great Dissertation Submission Debacle of '05 (pronounced "ought-five,"again in honor of my grandmother; whom we suspect was what might be termed, in a British novel, "twee"), you are right, my children.

Thinking about Emily Dickinson and her voluntary withdrawal from the "real world" makes me wonder if it is still possible to opt out. I mean, it's too, too late for me—I have family obligations, y'all, and miles to go before I sleep—and I don't think my sister would be amused at having to act as my interpreter to the world, as ED's did. And would it count if I kept my internet connection? Could I be the Spinster Poetess of Urbatopia (leaving aside, if only briefly, my complete lack of poetic talent and my tendency to stir-craziness) and never leave my humble abode? Can I still watch "Law and Order" reruns nightly, just to reconfirm the reasons for my flight from the real world?

Daily quota of moral outrage for the day: a sign advertising an LA strip club that reads (or did, until it was removed and edited, albeit not for content...) Vagina's R Us. I hope the apostrophe pussy...uh, I mean posse is on them in a flash.

Why I love the net: searching for a link to the story above, which I read in my local paper but could not, of course, use as my link because it would destroy my delusions of pseudonymity, I googled "LA vagina banner." I won't tell you how many responses I got, but I did like the pop-up eBay ad: "Looking for Vaginas? Find it at eBay." Ah, folks, if only it were that easy.


At 8:12 AM , Blogger bitchphd said...

I like Emily Dickinson on Zoloft. I mean, not that I prefer her to the real Dickinson, but I found the satire (was it satire?) funny. I also always misspell "Dickinson," and then have to correct it. Every single time. I can tell that I've misspelled it, but I can't ever remember how it's spelled in advance. Drives me nuts.

I've also developed a theory in recent years that one of the great tragedies of the world is that few women understand *why* separatism or any of the great anti-family writings of any of the older feminists (including Tillie Olson) make sense until it's too fucking late. Oh, you can get it in kind of a theoretical way, but we've all grown so used to seeing ourselves as autonomous individuals that we never paid a lot of attention to how very much work the mothers were always doing. Until we have our own kids and then we go, "oh shit."

At 9:53 AM , Blogger Dorcasina said...

Amen. And again. Even with partners who share and then some, family is, for a woman, simply relentless, constant, numbingly hard work. That isn't intended to denigrate the pleasures and joys it brings, but I know just what you mean. I agree completely that I spent so much of my own life knowing *abstractly* the perils and exhaustion of motherhood, but still having the reality hit me like a ton of bricks.

And my resentment at that is immense. No matter how I theorize or politicize it, I have no fucking time for myself and I am beginning to believe that that fact is biological and evolutionary to a large extent--which is not, of course, saying that we can't evolve past that into a version of motherhood that recognizes and addresses the stupefying labor (emotional, physical) involved.

Which makes women like Dickinson, Olson, Woolf all the more extraordinary. From what I've been reading of Dickinson, she appears (from the minuscule records available, and from a good deal of interpretive reading of her work) to have made a conscious choice for poetry over "life" as it was constituted for mid-19th-century women. The courage of that choice makes me a bit breathless, I confess.

And I actually have had book reps send me "Dickens" instead of Dickinson texts, if that makes you feel any better...not that the average book rep is required to know the difference, but that it's a common slip even for those who routinely work with the names...

At 11:48 AM , Anonymous drh said...

But isn't motherhood a choice you made willingly? (I realize I am presuming here) Even if it was without full understanding of the consequences, because you are right that motherhood is something that can be truly understood once you are a mother.

I guess I'm curious what you think of those who deliberately "opt out" in today's world, as compared to those from Dickinson's time.

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