Saturday, January 25, 2014

The saddest things or not

So I had a post in mind I wanted to call 'The Saddest Things.' And I was going to write something really profound (you know it, errant reader):

Two dimes did it for Ray.
First, I was thinking of Stephen King's book Pet Sematary, where after the chapter about the death of the little boy, there's a chapter where the scene is totally reimaged, where the little boy doesn't die (which, as it happens, is more like the reality), and we as readers, so used to being used by King, are left wondering for a few pages, what really happened? And it's just some excellent writing for a lot of reasons -- the emotion, mainly, I think. And the suspense. (Thwarted alert, see below)

And that reminded me of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, where she writes so movingly of the time after the death of her little boy, that famous 'Lindbergh baby,' where she thinks so hard about events leading up to the kidnapping that she can almost undo it. And then imagining her little boy going to heaven before her, where he'll be waiting and someday she will see him, and it won't be so scary, that she'll be able to go through 'the little door' to him.

So there are two sad things, but here is something I read recently that seems the saddest of all and I can't seem to shake out of my brain. Or maybe in juxtaposition to the two child deaths -- the fictional one, and the real one, there's something unsettling about it, to people who are writers or wanna-be writers and are parents, too.

In  'Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose,' by Raymond Carver, I read the essay 'Fires.'

Ray's talking about his literary influences, which he rather blows off, and goes on to talk about 'other kinds of influences':
But if the main influence on my life and writing has been a negative one, oppressive and often malevolent, as I believe is the case, what am I to make of this?
... I have to say that the greatest single influence on my life, and on my writing, directly and indirectly, has been my two children ... there wasn't any area of my life where their heavy and often baleful influence didn't reach....
And he tells a rather mundane but ultimately life-altering (for him) story about an afternoon in a laundromat where he gets into a petty squabble with a lady about using machines. His wife is working, his kids are at a birthday party, and he's doing chores -- including laundry. And it's safe to say he doesn't want to be there, as he waits in frustration for an open dryer, of all the damn things:
... (N)othing -- and, brother, I mean nothing -- that ever happened to me on this earth could come anywhere close, could possibly be as important to me, could make as much difference to me, as the fact that I had two children. And that I would always have them and always find myself in this position of unrelieved responsibility and permanent distraction. 
... (T)he life I was in was vastly different from the lives of the writers I most admired. I understood writers to be people who didn't spend their Saturdays at the laundromat and every waking hour subject to the needs and caprices of their children....
Wow -- the 'heavy and often baleful influence' of his kids? And later in the essay '... the children had got into the driver's seat ... they held the reins, and the whip.' What kind of parental dysfunction was going on here?

It's hard not to go all psychoanalytical about it -- his early marriage, his young wife, his own dreams, his boatload of financial problems, the drinking! Two demanding 'malevolent' children! The unrelenting responsibilities! Which they are -- parenting is a cosmic-level energy suck, we can all sympathize with that. It's just that most of us aren't also on a path to become the best short-story writer of the century.

But I don't need to feel any sorrier for Ray than he feels for himself. Saturday was his to write, dammit! His young adult life seems like a clusterfuck of personality, ambition, choices, immaturity, and maybe, conversely, lack of imagination that things could ever change? that sounds like hell to live through but that ultimately gave him the material and the foundation to be the writer he became. Weird how that works out. And maybe not sad, either, come to think about it -- I don't think he was, later in life.

But without those kids, that life, that laundromat lady, that dryer, what do we lose, as readers? What would he have lost, as a writer?

*What's the thwarted part? This IS sad. I GAVE MY COPY OF PET SEMATARY AWAY. And it's not on Kindle. So I can't -- until I order one or try to buy one or go to the library -- get any good quotes or refresh my memory about the specifics. I'm as frustrated as Ray waiting for a dryer.

This one's for Ray, he'd get it:

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