Dear friends — I haven’t posted in a while because, in order to pay off a tiny bit of my trip to France last fall, I taught at Edmonds Community College this quarter. I had been looking forward all winter to planning a big end of April trip to SoCal, the area that I still (and probably always will) consider my literary “home” when the coronavirus hit. Now I don’t know when I’ll get there.
Yesterday, my best friend from Second Grade, texted me the simple message, “Strange times we’re living in.”
Yup. I hear people saying things “when this is over, we’ll. . . ” AS WELL as things like “the world will never be the same.” I have a feeling that the truth — as always — will turn out to be something else — some reality that is at once more nuanced and more surprising than what we have been imagining.
What does this mean for me and my writing? Well, to be honest, I’m finding it hard to find time to write. At the same time though, I’m acutely aware that this actually IS the time to write. I started a factual diary about the coronavirus. I gave up after 2 days. I don’t know what I want to write exactly. So I’m writing this blog post. Then I’m going to clean my office. And then, I’m going to start reading Plague novels and rewatch the entire Game of Thrones HBO series (except for the parts with Ramsay Snow…. these just make me annoyed).
I keep on thinking about 2 books. The first one is the Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. The second book is The Encyclopedia of Nazi Literature of the Americas by Roberto Bolano. Fragments written by 72 different imaginary people (or is it 80?) and a fake set of entries about Fascists. Those both speak to me as highly relevant to the strange times my friend referred to.
I don’t have any profound answers, but I do think that writing is better than not writing. So, I will tell you to do what I’m doing right now. Write something. Especially if you’re older and/or have an immune issue, you really SHOULD write something today. If you HAVE written something, send it out — even if it’s only to a friend. And I think it might help to write something strange.
The Russian Formalists, writing at the beginning of what they hoped would be a brilliant new era for Russian society, opined that art existed to slow down perception and to make the world “strange.” Strangeness helps us think and see differently.
Speculative fiction, fantasy literature, horror, sf, and my personal fave — magical realism — are all spaces where the strange can unwind itself and let its wings, tentacles, robot arms, viruses (I’m thinking of Greg Bear’s sensational novel Blood Music), binary codes, and ice-flows move outwards. A friend of a friend writes tentacle porn, and you know what? I say go write that if that’s your thing.
Here’s to writing whatever you can and whatever you must during these strange days.