Childhood Living — it’s easy to do

All of us find some beauty, some pleasure or allegiance in childhood to help us endure. For me, I found it in the natural world — in a childhood in New Zealand and the South Pacific, seeing Mt Fuji and Tahiti, swimming in the rivers and ocean of coastal Australia.

It was also in books: most particularly in Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood: a world in which the roller coaster of childhood experience — the power and the powerlessness –becomes Adventure and Change; various “lands” arrive via clouds at the top of the Faraway Tree.  There is the Land of Presents, the Land of Spells, the Land of Know-It-Alls.

One adventure replaces another.  One survives, glories, trembles, eats candy that is one minute cool and next burning hot. One day it is The Land of  Birthdays, the next The Land of Tempers or, The Land of Do-As-You-Please.

What better reason for enduring: knowing that there is no one world, that the next, or the one after that, could be the Land of Topsy-Turvy or, one of all children’s favorite: The Land of Take-What-You-Want.

What would you take, reader, if you had to take something?  I  might just take these memories. I might just take this little book — one copy of which made it to Northeast America when my family immigrated there at my childhood’s end: age 12 I was.

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An Interview with the Creative Process

Long before the Me Too movement, you’ve been writing books and coming of age stories [Since You Ask, Miss Me a Lot of] about survivors of assault, abuses of power.

The Creative Process Exhibition was launched at the Sorbonne and is traveling to forty leading universities around the world. The exhibition consists of interviews with over 100 esteemed writers. For info and photos of the project, go here.

Click to my interview, which includes The Boxer and The Shipping Tycoon, 

… as well as some questions such as Why did you become a writer? Who were your formative influences and  what advice did they give you?

I took to heart the advice of my father and of poet Kenneth Koch who I studied with for at Columbia College in New York: don’t try to write like someone else; write as yourself. It sounds easy, yet it is what all writers strive for.

And what are your views on social media?

Beware as one would beware a proliferation of Sirens on the beach.

Artist Mia Funk is the master behind it, adding her sumptuous often blue painting and designs to the work. Mia told a fantastic story on 52 Men the Podcast, told from the point of view of a woman in a 500 year old painting. To listen, please go here. 

 

 

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Charles McGill

Charles arms outstretchedThe wilderness, we all pass through it. I saw it in Charles’ eyes just last week. May we realize that the extremes we go through are the test of our lives, and that in the most painful we discover who we are.

For me, I walked out of the Australian desert outback, alone in 2012, after eight years out of the U.S.A. I got on a plane and at the other end met up again, in a town I was moving to sight unseen, my beloved old friend Charles, who had moved there himself one week earlier: Peekskill, New York, an hour north of New York City.

From dark to light to dark to light.

In the piece on the outback in Tin House, that I posted last week, I describe the Coalsack Nebulae — a black space in the sky that is a recycler of stars. Also, again, what I discovered and love the most — that while white people pick their constellations from stars, aborigines see them in the patterns in the darkness. Charles I hope for sure that you are being recycled right now, dust into life as dead star into new star in the star recycler you reach. 

Charles was a man who never complained, in the 25 years I knew him, about his luck or his odds, or of being held back by any part of who he was. I so admire that. He would laugh at me, but I told his Dad that on his death bed our beloved Charles looked like black Jesus.

Everyone is going to miss him for the rest of our lives, as Jay D (I guess I should say Daugherty) said at his service on July 22. A terrible loss. A brilliant artist, a gentle strong man, and a soul mate. Tears are flowing and they ain’t going to stop soon.  Beautiful char;es

Charles Militant Golf (2)Charles arms outstretched

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My Tin House piece on E.L. Grant Watson, living in the outback.

Lost & Found: Louise Wareham Leonard on E. L. Grant Watson

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Pictures of Lolita, Gaitskill and me

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….

lolita-cover-2-e1362033220249yet 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.Hammer

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.

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Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone: a story

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.

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Hightailing it through another faceless desert….

 

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.

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Just because someone abuses you, doesn’t give you the right to…

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.

Five firsts: Louise Wareham Leonard on secrets and thinly-veiled memoirs

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Refusing to Give Way, leading a date to get awry

 

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The Perfect Little Poem: for Drew Huebner

The poet Donald RevAndrew_Huebnerell 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:

Jersey Shore

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.

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