outcome. Write into the
non-fiction class where the facilitator reckons that anyone who can’t write five
sentences on what her book is about is in trouble, or words to that
effect. I challenged the
different processes and perhaps even different times in the life of a
book. I may well still be at the
beginning whereas she’s talking about the end phase when the book needs to come
as the boy tried to pinch the last of his sister’s food before he had decided
to leave. He’s a real standover
merchant and so I stood over him, ordering him out of the house until his
sister had finished.
I love to write. That was a
mistake. Besides it is not true,
not entirely true. I write because
I need to write, because not to write would leave me feeling as if my life has
no purpose or meaning.
find that meaning and to make sense of my life, but that is not something I
love, not really. It’s more like
something I am compelled to do, for the pleasure it gives – and indeed it gives
me pleasure – and also for the need.
wrong. She describes her
hallucinations, her ‘hallies’ as she calls them, as if they are real and no
doubt they were real to her when they appeared to her mid fever and pain. But towards the end of her essay she
talks about her reservations about this writing. As if she is fearful of being included among the so-called ‘confessional writers’, those who, to use her words, ‘chase their own ambulances’.
writing of mine?
to define the expression. ‘Chasing
your own ambulance’, as he understands it, means to go looking for an accident,
to write about your trauma, as if to bear witness, thereby encouraging the
reader also to bear witness.
the word ‘confessional’, despite its religious connotations of admitting to
sin, can also mean the notion of disclosing something that has hitherto
remained hidden. It has perhaps a
more neutral tone, though the notion of sharing secrets to me does not.
weight of sin. Why else keep
something secret unless somewhere along the road there is some sense that
someone has done wrong? That
someone has something to hide and that something stirs up anxiety or fear.
effort, which is not to say there aren’t many things we might repress, seemingly
without effort. They slip out of consciousness and only crop up when the
pressures they exert for exposure rise to the surface. How did Freud term it? ‘the return of the repressed.’ But that’s not the same as deliberately keeping a secret, one that refuses to leave your consciousness.
inability to learn while I was first at university from eighteen years of age
till I was twenty two and went out into the world to take on my first job. Certainly numbers had me
female phobia of mathematics and perhaps of the sciences generally, that goes back in
time. Certainly in my family my father’s
conviction that girls were good for nothing apart from housework, child rearing and
sexual comfort held sway.
mother read all her life. She
still does. But in my father’s
mind her reading was limited to trashy romance or pot boilers and religious
propaganda like the Catholic Tribune and the Advocate.
Catholic schools I attended both in my primary years and at secondary level
added to this fantasy of female inferiority.
memory, which we polished with rote learning. Understanding why people might
behave as they do, as explored through English literature and history books, came through a thick layer of religious conviction.
who sought to overthrow the Christians. We read and rote learned the lives of
the saints and were encouraged to practice with sincerity and devotion, and an eye to our
calling as dedicated to others.
we were not called to follow God as priests and nuns, then marriage was
the only option, marriage to another Catholic with whom we would bring up
several children, as did my mother, but she had married a convert. Mixed marriages were then frowned upon.
meaning of things and I did not come to understand the meaning of the words, concepts and theories until much later in life.
We should not and that was all. A black and white world, and one which I now prefer to avoid, especially in my writing, other than to describe it.