Friday, September 23, 2016


I used to write in a mad rush :
just like that, all sorts of things
gushing  -  impressions, sights,
sounds, smells. It started when
I was about 11. I used to scribble
in the tiniest, little handwriting
you'd see. Impossibly bizarre.
Think of one of those black,
marble-look covered composition
books, the ones lined with blue,
the pages. Every two lines on
those pages, I'd get in three  -
ignoring the lines and just
sticking my little print, or
handwrite. I did both. Lots
of times it was indecipherable
upon returning to it, and I'd
have to pick and dissect to
get something back  -  as
recreated, figured out, or
approximated. Some really
screwy runic version of my
own things.  I never knew
what other writers ever did.
To me it was all sacred and
special work. Yes, an entirely
overblown sense of self. I
guess. Adolescent self
absorption : All that stuff
is so easy to say now, so
glibly it rolls. But when
you're in the middle of it,
it's an entire and different
focus. Sitting here now, as
I am, I don't really 'know'
you  -  whoever may be
reading this  -  but if you
yourself ever went through
anything like this, or if you
have kids and you notice
THEY are entering that same
tunnel  -  then you'll know
exactly of what I speak.
Carson McCullers wrote
'The Heart Is a Lonely
Hunter', and she also
wrote 'The Ballad of
the Sad Cafe' : "Yes, the
town is dreary. On August
afternoons the road is
empty, white with dust,
and the sky above is
bright as glass. Nothing
moves. There are no
children's voices,
only the hum of
the mill... There is
 absolutely nothing to
do in this town. Walk
around the pond, kick a
stump, figure out what
you can do with that
old wheel by the side
of the road. The soul
rots with boredom.' I
used to transplant that
nicely written southern
town scene, or try to,
right into my 16 year
old Avenel surroundings.
It very easily could seem
about the same, and I often
did it. It had a vague, pre-
indistrial quality to it, like
when the possums used to
hang from those big trees
where they later built the
homes along the end of
Inman Avenue. It was
kind of all I wanted : my
other polarity, which was
strange -   the major side
of me was ready, at an
instant's notice to split
and bee-line right up Rt.
One to NYC and,
hopefully, never be
known  again as the
me I once was. And
 then this complete other
side of me was some
weirded out rural mad
psychopath, hunkering
along dirt paths and
small roads, kicking
things, maybe whistling,
and checking everything
out. Country boy stranger,
on the lam. Both ways,
the entire world was
charging against  me.
One of McCuller's ideas
was, as I studied it all,
'man's revolt against
his own inner isolation
and his urge to express
himself as fully as
possible.' Her characters
could 'belong to any
place at any time, as
their isolation and
inability to communicate
takes on a larger, more
universal meaning.'
I loved Carson McCullers,
and all her small work.
I used to refer to it as
 'small' work, meaning to
say in my own fashion,
'regional' writing, not one
of the big hitters, universal
heavies, Joyce and Fitzgerald,
all that. Really dumb-ass
designations. She had a grace
and a writerly elan all her
own. Plus, to me she was
strange and exotic looking.
Trade talk was she was an
ugly, nasty case, often just
called 'bitch'  -  which is an
'O' away from 'botch.' Good
reaction. 'If her life was
charmed, it was charmed
not like that of a southern belle,
more like someone in a Tim
Burton movie : Odd specimen.
Tall and lanky, and as she
grew into adolescence 
she would deliberately 
emphasis her boyish 
appearance by wearing
white socks and sport shoes, 
along with tailored suits 
and sailor's caps. She 
carried around a flask 
of sherry and hot tea. 
Her birth had been difficult, 
which accounted for her 
slightly mis-shapen head. 
Her mother had claimed, 
during pregnancy, that 
she had been 'alerted
by the oracles that her 
firstborn would be 
unique.' She was 
convinced the child 
would be a boy and 
decided to name him 
Enrico Caruso, in honor
of the famous singer. 
In any event, the baby 
was a boyish girl, so
she was named Lula 
Carson  -  Lula, which 
she later dropped, after 
her grandmother, and 
Carson after Caruso. 
Different from the 
normal kids, she 
remained an outsider 
and was considered 
eccentric; skirts and 
dresses always a little 
too long, wearing dirty 
tennis shoes or brown 
Girl Scout Oxfords when 
the other girls were 
wearing hose and high 
heels. Those other girls 
threw rocks at her, 
snickered, and called her
'weird'', 'freakish-looking,' 
and 'queer.' Lastly: 'A 
childhood fever was 
misdiagnosed and
mistreated, leading to a 
series of terrible strokes
that would leave her 
almost-half paralyzed by 
the age of thirty. By forty, 
her body would be a 
wreck. Her last years she'd 
suffer through a number of 
intricate operations to
relieve the spasms of an
atrophying left hand, wrist,
elbow and leg; to repair a 
shattered hip and elbow; to
cope with repeated sieges of
pneumonia, a severe heart 
attack, and breast cancer.'
She wrote : 
"Nature is not abnormal,
 only lifelessness is 
abnormal." I loved that 
lady. She died in the 
Spring of 1967. I hardly
even noticed.

No comments: