Friday, June 18, 2010

My Book

I saw the movie "The Hours". Rented it from the library. It was very good. I sensed a strong theme of suicide. You wonder who is going to die. After I watched it I toyed with the idea of letting one of my main characters survive his suicide attempt. The up side of letting him live was having a conversation with him after he tries to die. He can explain himself. Anyway, how long can you morn for the death of someone you know? A couple of pages? That alone is a long time of mourning for the written word.

My other main character, Rachael, doesn't really explain her suicide attempt. I can hold back so that there is no explanation from her - she doesn't want to talk about it. Until, that is, her friend tries to kill himself in the hospital. So it takes a while until she examines what she has done. The end of the book can be her taking responsibility for what she has done. Usually you think, "poor little suicide victim, so sick". And oh yes, you think too "You bastard, what have you done?" What would it mean for a failed suicide to take up with life again? This is my main worry with the end of my book. How do I make someone who has given up on life embrace life again. How do you show that she is out of danger for trying to kill herself again? What is a life affirming act?

I so wanted to kill off my character Andrew Woodward, but this might have been for personal reasons. He is based on a person I got to know through the book they wrote. It is funny knowing a person through their writing but never having met them. They can infuriate you, even when you've never seen their face. For me, in part, I am jealous of this other author. He seems to be better than me, both in terms of talent and opportunity. He swims through social currents with ease. He writes with ease. Professional accolades come to him with ease. He has many friends he can call. Oh, he wrote a lot about himself in his book. And he's become a symbol of everything I'm not, but that I once aspired to. Probably I fell in love with him a little while reading his book. Just as I hope my readers will fall a little in love with Andrew Woodward. My main character Rachael is besotted with Andrew Woodward. But she knows they have no future friendship outside of the hospital. She couldn't bare it. He is beyond her, in terms of charisma, in terms of swimming through the currents of the world. She is of interest because he is bored and he is locked up in a psychiatric hospital. They don't carry the same diagnosis. His prognosis is better than hers. It can be awfully tough liking yourself for who you are when you meet someone who has vastly more charm and capability than you do.

I know Andy Warhol was mighty jealous of other artists. So if he has this flaw, it is o.k. for me to have the same flaw. I've been so jealous of contemporary writers that I've refused to read anything written by a living author. I only read dead authors, with the exception of non-fiction in the magazine The New Yorker. My therapist at the time pointed out to me that I was only reading dead authors. It must be a sign of my healing that I read living authors now.

With living authors I get a feeling of the vastness of their lives. I get a feeling of travel and self-sufficiency. Usually I peer into a mind that is more capable and flexible than my own.

Last weekend I went to a disastrous church picnic. Didn't have anyone to talk to, and the people I was sitting with I didn't know what to say to. My husband felt the same way - shy. There was this lawyer sitting with us who has just traveled to Bhutan with his wife. It was interesting the place that he was describing. Nice fellow. I asked his wife if she bought any jewelry there and she said no, it was chunky, she likes delicate, and it was expensive. Then she took her plate and moved to another table. I was dismissed as uninteresting. I guess you are base and crass if you think jewelry is the point of travel. It felt like a slap in the face. She went and sat with the head of Sunday school for the children, a saintly woman if there ever was one. And someone who probably thinks of loftier things than jewelry. They seemed to have an eager, long, and happy conversation. When her husband was asked why he went to Bhutan he said it was merely a place that his wife had always wanted to see. She and him apparently traveled widely before the birth of their children. Her parents looked after the children as a birthday present for her 40th birthday while they were on the trip. The lawyer asked my husband if he has ever traveled around China. He said no, just traveled around Europe. I stayed quiet. I thought, "I don't travel". And immediately I felt inferior to the lawyer and his wife. I felt both miserable and angry at the same time.

Funny thing about the lawyer's wife - she never smiles. Now I know she likes to travel. I'm curious, what does she get out of travel? Do people travel when they are weary of life? When everything ordinary is bland and dull? I sometimes don't walk my dog around to the front of the house for her to go to the bathroom because it is too far and too exposed. It takes a little bit of courage for me to walk around the the front of the house. This woman travels to Bhutan for zest and I travel to the front of my house for zest. My husband and I walk the same route every day for exercise. I don't know if I would have the courage to walk this route alone if I didn't have the company of my husband. Last week it took a lot of courage for me to walk to the bank while my husband was at work. I do feel like I could travel anywhere if I only had my husband for company. But not even he could make me feel safe. I would still feel fear.

I think the next big trip we should have planned is a trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Art. That is one state over, in the middle of a big city. But I can research the route. I am looking forward to buying art magnets to go on our refrigerator. Art magnets are magnets of famous works of art, miniaturized. We already have a nice collection. The last museum we visited we spent over $30 alone on art magnets. This is something I think we ought to do to celebrate the anniversary of our first date, October 31st. My husband had suggested a hotel and Halloween dance party in Salem Massachusetts, but all I would do is spend eons worrying over my costume and then get mildly drunk. I would rather a civilized outing at the art museum. Lunch included. It is a fine choice to make, debauchery or high art? I am also afraid that we would spend a lot on costumes and that in the end, the Art Museum is a cheaper date. But then again, we would probably spend in the gift shop. So it is spending, whatever you do. I am trying hard, right now, not to spend.

I should savor the fact that I have hours of isolation every day and that I'm writing a book. This should make me feel a little like a person of notice and substance. Only, writing a book that has no promise of ever getting published makes you feel a bit silly. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing for the glory of God - and nobody else. I suppose it all comes down to how seriously you take yourself. I dare not take myself too seriously or else the rejection from the people reading my book might hurt terribly.

Today is particularly splendid because when I write tomorrow I know what I'm going to write about. A patient is going to hit her parent during visiting hours and get taken down and put in isolation. This is of course based on what I saw when I was in the hospital. A man punched his mother and got taken down so fast by psychiatric staff that when he hit the ground, with his chest, he vomited. I had once had a conversation with him where he said that hitting children was a good way to bring them up. He said that he was hit, and that it did him good. I thought, "and you wound up in a psychiatric hospital". So hitting was epidemic in his family. Of course hitting in the hospital gets you in a lot of trouble. And I've seen a patient kick their parent, just as the parent was leaving. This was more along the lines of "I'm so frustrated that you are going" kick, I know it doesn't make sense, but there you have it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karen,

    I also follow Kate Kiernan's blog and I am a friend of hers. I suffered many clinical depressions and do not take meds and have had a career, two kids, and so, I do believe to encourage others to recover. I do not profess to completely understand Schizophrenia, but have a writer friend who Kate also knows, Chris Bruni. She wrote a book on recovery and has an agent and it will be published in 2011. Chris has a blog and is also a writer for and I highly recommend you read her. I am interested in following your blog. I have read it a couple times. If you are interested, I have a project called Elation and I talk about it often in my blog Elation. This is the site:

    Best Wishes,


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