Thursday, August 7, 2008

Writing my life

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Suggested by Miko

Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live?

Or where you certainly would NOT want to live?

What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?

As a teenager I had always wanted to be one of Salinger's Glass family (Franny and Zooey, Raise High The Roofbeams Carpenter and Seymour). They lived in one of those sprawling Upper West Side NYC apartments, they talked back to their mother, and they were all so smart, so well read. In retrospect I think it would have been rather chaotic and a few of the Glass children don't end up very happily despite their brilliance, but at the time I thought it would be idea.

I not only wanted to live in the Paris of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, on my first trip to Paris I was sure I would find it. And I wanted not merely to live in Paris but really, if the truth be told, at 27 rue de Fleurus -their "tiny pavillon of two stories with four small rooms, a kitchen and bath, and a very large atelier adjoining." I wanted my dinner cooked by their Helene and I wanted to meet their friends Picasso, Gris, and Braque and buy one of their artworks for a song and hang it in my own Parisian living room, when I had one. I would also have been happy living in the post-war Paris of May Sarton's Shadow of a Man - going to the theatre with Fontane, eating extraordinary lunches, and figuring out love.

I'm also generally attracted to worlds of fantasy books where phenomena invisible in our own world are made tangible - as in the His Dark Materials books of Philip Pullman - or in which magic is possible. To tesseract could be convenient every now and then or even having a good old fashioned wand like Harry P. The problem is that, in these worlds, generally those powers not granted us are given the characters in worlds in tremendous crisis. Wait a minute. Maybe that is us. Greater crisis. So maybe this is one of those cases where I should be careful what I wish for.

Much as I enjoy her books, I would not want to live in the world of an Iris Murdoch novel. Although some of them have beautiful homes, the people in them are usually in the midst of some romantic or existential crisis that inevitably ends in a tragedy - an impulsive act, a crime, a death. I'm also fascinated by Rohinton Mistry's worlds but would have no interest in inhabiting them. I think life in Mistry's rural or urban Indian settings would be too hot and too chaotic for me.

I'm not sure about the exact meaning of the last question - by write my life do you mean who would I want to record my life as I'm living it now? In that case, I could do with a compassionate eye and someone who understands that so much of what makes a life interesting is what is happening inside the person. I would go with Ethan Canin for that or Virginia Woolf would no doubt do my continuous inner monologue great justice. She would get me. However, if by write my life you mean who would I like to create a life for me other than the one I'm living? Then, hmmmm... I think I'll opt for Gregory Maguire. It would be excitingly imagined, a little magical, full of warmth - it would be a fairy tale and sometimes dangerous but I would feel safe in Maguire's hands. Plus everyone would read me and I would become a musical.


SmilingSally said...

I didn't think of the angle of recording my life as I'm living it now. Now, that's another good interesting question!

SFP said...

Ooh, I mentioned Virginia Woolf, too! And I was quite taken in by the Glass family when I was in high school. I wrote a term paper on them, although I haven't a clue anymore what I said.

Anonymous said...

I am most attracted to what I see in fantasy and sci fi.

Anonymous said...

I think I would like to be a Saul Bellow character. I'm thinking of Augie March especially. They are hardy and interesting things happen to them, in rapid succession. That said, being a character created by a genre writer would probably be more fun.

Kat said...

A modern world where magic exists is a good choice for me! :D