I like detective stories. Henning Mankell says that character is revealed in moments of crime, or something like that, and he uses his detective novels, many of which are also films, to talk about politics, too. Which makes me feel better about it, as if simple pleasure is not enough. I’ve watched all the Scandinavian crime TV shows on Netflix. The cops hardly ever carry guns. Fat old cops chase down young muscular criminals and catch them, somehow, through sheer force of will or authority. European cops often go right into people’s homes if the people are gone, and we don’t even mind because they are good. European criminals hardly ever think to say they want a lawyer. Usually detectives drink too much, but we don’t hold that against them unless they are female. If they are female, it’s troubling. We worry about them in a way we don’t if they are male, even if we are feminist and know this is illogical. When I read Donna Leon, I want my husband to be Commissario Brunetti, and I want to live in Venice. For a long time after the Supreme Court appointed Bush president, I only read detective novels. I wanted a world in which things got sorted out eventually, a world in which the bad guys lost, the good guys won, the truth prevailed.
When we hear of people making bombs it seems scary or at least weird and psychopathic but my old boyfriend made bombs for a while and I didn’t think anything of it. He made them in our living room using fireworks. It was a hobby of his. We sat on the couch smoking dope and listening to music and he constructed his bombs. One evening we went out to the country with his friend Larry and they set them off while I waited in the car, reading. It was stupid, I thought.
I’ve hardly looked at my current novel since I’ve been in school. Today I got it out and now I remember why. Suddenly most of the day is gone, and I don’t want to do anything else but write the story. I don’t want to grade papers, I don’t to do homework, I don’t want to work on my lesson plans, enter grades, read what I’m supposed to read, write what I’m supposed to write, I don’t want to cook dinner, pay my bills, vacuum, do the laundry, talk to anyone, see anyone, do anything or think about anything but my story. See what happens?
I am looking again at my manuscript which Jessica said is too “dark,” a complaint I can’t understand. And I am thinking of how to edit a short piece I wrote which was inspired by Walter Pater’s Child in the House, but I wonder if it’s too obscure. I want to rewrite my unpublished novel, The Only Home I Have, so that all the minor characters don’t seem like cliches. I want to rewrite my novel draft, The Secret Bible Club, based on the American Eugenics Movement, so that the front story is at least as interesting as the back story. I want to develop a collection of short stories, but first I need to read more Chekov. I want to finish my book about Ten Mile. I want to write a screenplay. I just want to be a writer. But I need to work in the garden and I want to play with the baby and I need to cook and I want to organize my closet. And I have to finish my syllabus for class, which starts Monday.
Mimi asked how I find time to write a blog, and I said I only write about once a month so that hardly counts. It’s spring break, and I’m writing my never-ending YA adult Tarot card novel, which is so difficult because it’s all plot driven and figuring things out. Someone once wrote that I am a master of plot, but that is not true. Plot is my enemy. I just want to write. I want to run around on the page frolicking, letting myself go wherever the words lead, and saying whatever I want even if it’s stupid or mean. But writing like that is no good. In this story, it’s almost all holding back. Every day I look at the page with dread. Every day it seems impossible. So this is what people mean when they talk about the struggle of writing. Weirdly, the writing is good. Which seems wrong. Shouldn’t we see the dread, awkwardness and worry? It seems like we should see those things on the page.
My daughter says I need to come up with a name for myself. A grandmother name. It’s something women do, women like me, grandmothers, they decide on their own names. Names like Nana or Mamey.
–How about Mimi, that’s a good name.
–You can’t just make up a random name.
–I’m not making up a random name. If I was making up a random name, I’d say something like Josette. Have the baby call me Josette.
–That’s not the right kind of name.
I call him the baby, or baby.
I’ve been trying to teach him to say, “Eat,” instead of whining when he wants food. His mother wants, “Eat please,” but we have to start small. Eat, I say. Eeeet. He is in his high chair, eating quinoa, cheerios and blueberries. Eeee, I say, t. I show him what my mouth does to make those sounds and he looks at me blankly. I give up finally and turn away, but when I am half way across the room, he shouts, “Eat.”
I took him to OSU today. A warm spring day. He loved the skateboarders and the bicycles. He was thrilled by a sports poster. He loved walking over a metal grate that made noise when he stepped. Sometimes he held my hand, but often he wanted to walk alone, as if he was just some guy, walking along on the campus. Some very short guy.
I always felt negligent because I don’t write biographies of my characters before putting them into my stories, like the writing books say to do. I don’t make lists. I don’t think about their favorite colors, hobbies, the kind of car they drive, their childhood. I put them in and see what develops. So lazy. So impatient. Then yesterday I read an article in which someone compared the autobiographical sketch of things not intended for the story to painting all the other rooms in your house in preparation for painting the room that needs to be painted, and, yes, that’s exactly what it feels like. I just needed to hear someone say it.
Why is it so easy to distrust our own process?