Monday, May 26, 2014

Very early in my life it was too late.

....By luck or fate, I was enrolled in a creative writing class taught by Alexander Chee. I turned in stories and essays and he nodded and smiled and said they were just fine, but he urged me to do more, to my utter confusion. One day we walked across College Row to get coffee and he shook my story in front of me and said, “Why don’t you write what you really want to write? The way you really want to write it?” I confessed had no idea what he meant. We detoured from coffee and he took me to his office and handed me a copy of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover. Alex directed me to the opening:
One day, I was already old, in the entrance of a public place a man came up to me. He introduced himself and said, ‘I’ve known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you’re more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged.
Alex wanted me to see how that opening zigzagged back and forth in time, and contained the vast emotional landscape of the entire lyric novella: time and loss, beauty and desire, grief and ecstasy. I saw instead her subject as the pulsing, raw center that beats at the heart of every page of Duras’ prose. I saw instead her sentences like machete-cut trails through virgin growth to get at unspeakable wounds. I saw a way to tell my own story.

- Aja Gabel