Wednesday, June 6, 2012

No Greece, In Search of Relaxation, Marguerite Duras

Tuesday, June 5-6, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Lots of stuff going on. I’ve officially shelved the Greece trip. Or more accurately, I’m postponing it until next summer. I’ve done this for two main reasons. Money is the first one. I simply don’t have enough to take the kind of trip I want. The second reason is more complicated. I’m coming to understand that I don’t just want to take vacations to Greece. As I was telling my friend Katie in an email today, I want to have a deeper relationship with the place than that; I’m pretty sure that sooner rather than later I want to live there, at least part time. This involves a reorientation of how I get back there. I need to start laying the groundwork for this more serious venture on this side of the Atlantic. Admittedly I’m not sure what this groundwork is. I know, though, that getting my life together as a writer is a priority (dealing with getting the Backwaters novels published is a big part of this). I also need to get serious about learning Greek. I got a really good start on this but by last January I was so crushed by school that my studies fell by the wayside. I’ve started up again, though, and I’m hoping to have a productive Greeky summer.

Another reason I’ve postponed the trip is simple exhaustion. Lately I’ve been depressed about my inability to write, to have much passion for writing. I’m now seeing that I need a fallow period, that my inability to write stems partially from the fact that I’m completely exhausted and burned out on the lifestyle I’ve been leading. The truth is, I’m not finding much joy in most of the things I do; I’ve been busting my butt teaching and have written two novels and part of book of poetry over the last five years—and all this has taken a lot out of me. I need other things in my life. I’ve kind of forgotten how to have fun. I need to simply relax and try and relearn (or maybe learn for the first time) a few basic things about living. I need more friends. I need more time for contemplation. I need to step back a bit and simply take in the things around me. I need a big break in regards to just about everything.

I had a really weird dream the other night that Steve E. suggested I write down before I forget it. I was teaching at some college, not either of the ones I’m at now; it was more a university than a community college. It had a vaguely east-coast feel; at least some of the buildings were made out of bricks and there was ivy growing up parts of them. I was in a class giving a final. I remember thinking even during the dream that the final seemed kind of like a scam, like it was too easy to really be a final. After the test I went back to my apartment, which was in a building on the campus, not too far from where I’d just given the final. I was only in my apartment, though, for a few minutes before I heard something going on outside. I looked out a window and saw a bunch of cops pouring into one of the bigger buildings on the campus; somehow I knew they were there to make mass arrests of the students. Before I could really take too much of this in, though, I heard someone banging on my door. It was a single cop, a Latino guy with a small mustache, who had come to take me away.

He took me into a building and then into what looked like a giant men’s room. Once in there he started asking me all sorts of questions about supposedly subversive activity on my part (I don’t remember the specifics on this, but I do remember that he was pretty vague in the dream so there might not be all that much in the way of specifics to remember). At some point I asked for a lawyer. The cop then pulled a blonde guy who looked straight out of 1976—feathered middle-length hair, big-collared shirt, etc.— out of a bathroom stall. Apparently he’d been in there banging some girl. At this point there were suddenly more people there. A judge? Other cops? I’m not sure now. I do remember that I was being peppered with questions at this point that I didn’t understand; I wasn’t sure what I was being accused of. Around this time a female student was brought in as a witness against me; she wasn’t anyone I recognized. I remember she was just beginning her testimony when my the alarm on my clock-radio went off. I woke up in a truly foul mood, much of which followed me well into the day.

 Been reading Marguerite Duras recently. I’ve never read her before, though I’ve been interested in checking her out for a while. A few days ago I blew thru a short novel of hers called Black Hair, Blue Eyes. It’s a pretty awful book. Very elliptical, minimalist, experimental in a lot of bad ways. Some of it moves well into self-parody, of herself (I can tell this even without having read any other of her books—her methods and perspectives are easily sussed out), post-war French literature, and French culture as a whole. There were aspects of it, though, that interested me, that made me want to read something else by her. Right now I’m about a third of the way thru her later novel called The North Chinese Lover. So far it’s a much better work: it does all the same things as Black Hair, Blues Eyes, but in this case her technique really propels and elucidates the story (in Black Hair, Blue Eyes it kind of was the story). With this book I can see why she’s so popular and highly regarded.

I haven’t felt much of a need to write in this diary recently. I’m realizing this is partially because I’ve been using it as a way to vent about teaching, which is now done for the summer. However much I end up writing here this summer I can now see that I have a chance to do some new things with these pages, some more positive things. Complaining to flowering (the flowering of something other than my complaining). I’m looking forward to this, to relaxing into something more fun.


helicopter steve (Estabrook) said...

Yeah, that dream could be the basis for a story. I mean, cops, riot, banging in the bathroom. Just add a plot and motivation and yr good!

Rob Woodard said...

No Kafka for me. I don't want to write stories that bum me out that much.