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What do you think of when you think of Lolita? The answer is not always your fault. Publishers want to sell copies and sex sells, or can. But Lolita, Lolita. I have been reading Mary Gaitskill’s essays, and in her essay “Pictures of Lo,” she puts it perfectly:
Lolita may be fairly described as a ‘threnody’ for the destruction of a child’s life….
yet a high percentage of the covers go for cute.
In my adolescence, it was Lolita in heart shape sunglasses, sucking a lollipop. And there have been some 150 other versions.
Lolita is the story of a young girl at the mercy of a step-father who responds to her nascent sexuality by targeting her, kidnapping her and sleeping with her as his captive step-daughter in one place after another until outsiders suspect. Her sobbing, which he sometimes hears at night, he duly, perhaps guiltily, hears but ignores.
When she finally escapes, she becomes — as many abused children do — a denuded lessened figure, a shadow of what she might have been.
Mary Gaitskill’s collection of essay and reviews, Somebody with a Little Hammer, is so forthright and perceptive and strong; Gaitskill sees through all of the nonsense and depravity of the convenient and willful transformation of victim to seductress. And I believe I know a thing about this, having had my last little work, 52 Men, treated as if my character were a happy go lucky nymphomaniac (sorry, but no.) I quote Gaitskill here, writing of Linda Lovelace, in Gaitskill’s essay “Icon:”
You don’t need special shrewdness or even much experience to recognize a predator; all you need is a working animal instinct.
But some people’s instincts have been ruined. Some people’s instinct have been so ruined by such disrespectful treatment that, for them, disrespect is not merely a norm; it has a kind of hyper-reality that is absolutely compelling. Such people don’t necessarily identify as masochistic in a conscious way… It’s hard to know them — that is, to know how hurt they are, and how intractable the damage is.
I do not know what happened to Gaitskill that she understands this. It is, perhaps, a good thing that I don’t, so it be not too reductive. But the point is, that somehow she does, and I totally relate to her.
In another essay in the collection a young person asks her in real time her why she loves him. She says:
This is why —
You’re not somebody who just wants to hear nice bullshit.
You care. You want to know what’s real.
I love you for that.
Amy Hassinger tells the story of an aching painful adolescent love, when a boy’s desperate need and intensity compel, confuse and repel a young girl all at the same time.
In an excerpt from her novel-in-progress After Venice, writer ANDREA R. VAUCHER tells the story of a woman whose Maserati breaks down out of L.A. in the desert. Then arrives, to rescue her, an all American male with the perfect body, a smile to kill and a whole lot of secrets… just like her…
LA-based award-winning journalist (media, travel, style, the arts and spirituality) published widely including NYTimes, LATimes, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Tricycle, Huffington Post. She is also Author of “Muses From Chaos and Ash: AIDS, Artists and Art” (Grove Press, 1993) — an oral history of the artists on the frontline of the AIDS crisis and the first book to explore the effect of the AIDS epidemic on the international art community.
Popping up a recent interview by Siel Ju. She is gorgeous and super smart and from L.A. She was on the podcast reading her awesome piece Acceptance. Here, in her interview is a little about about the outback, about how 52 classifies as fiction, and about my belief that, yes Just Because Someone Abuses You Doesn’t Give You the Right to Destroy Them.
The poet Donald Revell once read this poem of mine, and told me it was “a perfect little poem.” He didn’t elucidate, and I really don’t know what he meant by this. I wasn’t even sure it was a compliment. Perfect is not always so, as it can mean utterly conventionally perfect. Whatever — said poem was written when I was reluctantly leaving one man while being violently pursued by another. Said pursuant was the writer Andrew Huebner, left, and, as I suspected from the beginning, I ended up not with him or the man I left, but alone — at least for some years. Proving, I guess, that I was right to feel as I felt in the following:
Maybe it is time for me to love a body
without hope of keeping it,
to take your heavy soft solid kiss
and give it back —
to let you wander off, like another brother —
indifferent yet tied.
It’s only moments that I’m after now,
you telling me to Look at you
as I am somewhere between pleasure and grief.
“I am in despair,” I say,
getting in your car —
Before us the bright April ocean.
Interestingly -on another point entirely — the last time I remember seeing Drew he was waking across 14th Street, wearing a black t-shirt festooned with an American flag.
Drew was from New Jersey/Pennsylvania, which meant a lot to him, while I had little knowledge of my ancestry.
It turns out, I found out not long after Drew, and while living in New Zealand for eight years — my great-great-great Grandfather Joseph Wareham was also from New Jersey/Pennsylvania. He fought in the U.S. Civil War, was injured in battle of Pensacola, and followed on to New Zealand in the 1840s, looking for gold.
Here is my old friend Ron Shapiro. I was driving through the deep south, age 22, in a Drive-Away car (you pay for the gas and get to drive the car to a destination) when I landed in Oxford Mississippi to check out Faulkner’s home. After that, I stumbled into Oxford’s Hoka Cafe, owned by Ron, and the dear fellow must have recognized, after numerous cups of coffee and a slice of his cheesecake, that I was sleeping in said Drive- Away car, as he gave me his couch to sleep on that night.
I ended up living in Oxford for a year, working at the ER, then Square Books. Ron, who later became Oxford Mayor, hooked me up with all kinds: Faulkner’s niece, Faulkner’s chiropractor, all the writers in town — Willie Morris, who drove me all around the delta, Barry Hannah who proposed that I marry a then briefly single Willie. Some of this is in 52 Men.
What is not, is that those were lucky days for me, an oasis in the madness of my chemical youth. That’s what Fitzgerald calls it in the story I talked of yesterday, “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz.”
Everybody’s youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.
Though if you want know the damn truth, in my case I would make that life. As in: my entire life has been a dream, a form of chemical madness. Sounds right to me.
Any day is a good day to re-read The Diamond As Big as the Ritz. And today, after four days fighting a vicious cough that I thought was going to choke the life out of me, seemed a perfect one. Mild skies, happy life, good work flow, happiness. And this book!.
First, I love how it portrays what might as well be today’s one percenters. Here is a description of the blithe children of the richest man in the world:
“A chaste and consistent selfishness ran like a pattern through their every idea.”
Doesn’t that just sound like some people you have read about on the news lately? Oh yes, it does. Face it. Read it again. A chaste and consistent selfishness ran like a pattern through their every idea. Fantastic.
Then, there is the delicious pure language, like water falling in the sun. Fitzgerald was just so good when he was good, and he was usually good:
The Montana sunset lay between two mountains like a gigantic bruise from which dark arteries spread themselves over a poisoned sky.
It sounds overdone, but in context it is just beautiful. AND I think I might have found in these short pages a title for short story: “The Gaudy Valley.” Oh, yes.