what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout
Now, don't get me wrong, I am not a woman of small ego or personality and I even have a strong sense of the ways in which I'm physically attractive. I don't easily disappear except at large parties, where I tend to turn myself invisible which is something else entirely, and is due to my inability to cope in crowds unless I know enough people who make up the crowd.
No, what I'm referring to is a different phenomenon, a societal one, one that gradually happens to every woman, except perhaps Jackie Onassis and a few well-known others. It even happens to men, but only much much older when they become obviously infirm. And it happens, I'm guessing, to people who are physically disabled, but I would think in a slightly different way.
The concept was pushed into my head in correspondence with two male friends of mine, both artists, both of whom felt passed up by awards. And I realized that I didn't think of awards as something I could feel passed up by--that I had no sense of entitlement that kind of notice, or indeed to notice of any kind regarding my work. How odd, for a writer who gets her work out there however she can and while I'm no showoff I do some rather obvious self-promotion when appropriate (through pursuing readings and such). But I've never expected recognition in the way that these male friends did. I welcome it when it does come, of course, but it would never occur to me to feel passed over because I was not nominated for an award.
Now, aside from the quality of their work, which is not at all in question, I had trouble figuring out why they expected to be noticed and I realized I was thinking in female terms. Most women don't expect work they do to get noticed in that way. Men expect their work to be noticed. In the normal way of the world. (Generally, of course: when talking about things on this level it's only possible to speak in generalizations because certainly there are specific instances of exceptions.)
And there's societal invisibility. When women are young they do expect to be noticed sexually (so do men for that matter) but after that, unless losing that sexual notice makes them nervous and they fight the process off, they gradually become invisible, far younger than men do. I am becoming invisible--the first way was by being overweight, so for me the process began younger than for women who are closer to general societal expectations for attractiveness. And then by letting my hair do what it does naturally, which is turn grey--it started when I was 17.
And I've noticed that for a large proportion of the population now, I simply no longer exist. It's fascinating.
It reminds me of when I was 21 and had worked in the hardware department of a store for almost a year and a teenage boy was hired. Customers would ask him a question, he'd ask me, I'd answer, and the customers would ask him the next question, as so on. It blew my mind. I laughed at first, but it started to bug me.
Anyway, while I'm partially invisible, one of my vanities does draw attention--I keep my greying hair in-your-face noticeable by the fact of keeping it long. I get compliments by strangers. Ha! So much for invisibility, at least among those who have eyes to see. But really, I've never minded being invisible--it must be harder for women who expect notice and attention, particularly of the sexual kind, when they get older and more invisible generally. There are several women of my acquaintance who have long defined themselves by the sexual attention they draw who I suspect will have a hard time with this. Still, those women would never expect their work to draw public notice.
What a strange world--just when a lot of people know enough to start getting really interesting, they become invisible. To the crowd, but not necessarily to individuals.
He also bought some new discs himself (not me for a change) from Bedazzled, including a new An April March ep.
Right now as I type I'm listening to a live tape of Veda Hille, who is probably my favourite musical artist. She sings "This is so beautiful and fierce," and yes, it is, which is why I love her.
I also read the first mystery in a series of medieval mysteries set in York, England, written by a local (Seattle) author, Candace Robb. It was intriguing, especially, for me, the historical stuff. But mysteries just aren't my drug of choice. They're too tidy and there's none of that essential ingredient for me in fiction, the old sensawonda. That's what makes me love fiction, and poetry.
Of course, none of that accounts for the years I've spent thinking about what I wanted this book to be; how one day in 1991 when I was cutting out a jumper (I never did finish that jumper) I started writing a long poem in the voice of a Viking's wife--she's talking to herself as he sails away. I kept thinking the poem was finished and I'd go back to the jumper and work a little and more lines would spring up in my head and I'd be back to my notebook, scribbling them down. When I was finally finished a second voice had her say (a woman on the shore the Viking is sailing to) and there the whole idea for the manuscript was born. A collection of women's voices, ordinary women, talking about their lives through space and time.
At first I thought they were mostly going to be historic voices, but that's not how it turned out--well over half are clearly contemporary, and many of the poems aren't dramatic monologues and some are fantasy voices, but there they are.
I'm having trouble settling back into getting the fiction done that I need to.
In another conjunction, it was looking at Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, the book (and TV series) that the high school class in civilisation I talk about below was based on that started the Viking voice in my head.
2. Just as a note about how dedicated I was, because there only was one class of creative writing I didn't get credit for it the second time I took it. What a sacrifice for art!
3. Freaky--recently I've received email messages from high school students (I think, I suppose they could have been undergraduates, but high school is my guess) doing reports on my work and wanting more information. I wonder if I would have had the nerve to email a writer at that age? Probably not.
4. I can't tell you how difficult it is to type this stuff.
5. I suppose this is still under copyright. Anyway, at least I still had a sense of humour about this.
6. Wow--strange to think how close I was to that age then. Of course I don't remember this at all now.
7. This would be Sinclair Ross's As For Me and My House, a classic piece of prairie writing. 8. It was a course on the Bible as Literature, which was only available via correspondence. I had to take an extra course to make up for taking Creative Writing again, but I enjoyed the extra Bible study. I'm still glad I learned this stuff at church and through this course. Otherwise I would never have read the Bible. I can't imagine doing the literature studies I did later without knowing the Bible.
last week's Phonosnout § next week's Phonosnout
Last Week § Les Semaines index § Next Week
Email comments, questions, and complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org § Neile's main page
4151 people have wandered through this week with me