Here it is nigh on two weeks later and I am further than ever from completing my magnum opus on the art of fiction. In Deutschstunde (The German Lesson) by Siegfried Lenz, a juvenile delinquent named Siggi Jepsen is assigned the essay topic ‘The Joys of Duty,’ and hands in an empty notebook at the end of the class with the explanation that yes, he had plenty to say: too much, by far, so that he could not find the place from which to start. He is confined to his cell until he writes the essay, and the essay and the writing of the essay form the book. It’s a brilliant novel, and someday I will probably inflict it on you in greater depth. But for now, like Siggi Jepsen I am turning in a blank sheet.
And for lots of reasons, one of which is Virginia Woolf. It’s been a veritable orgy of Woolfiana around here lately, in which I have just found the following, from her diary:
It is all very well, saying one will write notes but writing is a very difficult art. That is one has always to select; & I am sleepy, & hence merely run sand through my fingers. Writing is not in the least an easy art. Thinking what to write, it seems easy; but the thought evaporates, runs hither and thither.
My thoughts on fiction run all over the place and, like the joys of duty, multiply like rabbits each time I almost have my hands on one. An essay, no. A kaleidoscope maybe, like my novel, but a kaleidoscope takes a little while to build and more focus than I seem to be able to muster just now.
February 6 will be eight years since I tested my skull against an ice skating rink. Except that it was only my third time on ice skates I have no idea how I could have landed so poorly. There are a few seconds missing from the film. There is a little kid, who appears at my right knee, much too close, and I’m about to ask him to give me some room, and then I surmise that he must have cut across my path but that’s where the film breaks, and when it starts up again I am sprawled forward, looking at a patch of blood on the ice, thinking that no, this can’t possibly be my blood, so I press my hand against my head, but sure enough, there is blood all over the palm of my hand.
The first words out of my mother’s mouth, when I told her a few days later, speaking between teeth that only opened an eighth of an inch or so, were, “My pretty baby!” Well, her baby ain’t so pretty anymore. I’ve got a nifty dent in the right side of my face, and some of the muscles there will never play the piano again. My jaw still doesn’t work quite the way I’d like it to, and full feeling along part of my upper lip has never come back. The worst though, is my sphenoid bone, which forms the back of the eye socket and a small part of the exterior of the skull near the temple, because it got jammed backwards so that it exerts pressure on the surrounding cranial sutures.
Cranio-sacral therapy helped some, temporarily, at sixty bucks a pop, but even my therapist was getting discouraged at the lack of progress, so I’ve been on my own with a broken head for a long time now. For the first few years, having the flu or a cold felt like having a squishy sort of a roller coaster careening around in slow motion inside my head. I’m glad I don’t get that anymore. Unfortunately, the very worst part, the sense of noise and pressure in my skull around the sphenoid bone, has been with me for eight years, sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always there.
Lately it’s been pretty loud.
If I could do absolutely nothing but work on the literature essay for a few days I could maybe get it down, but there is too much going on just now and I cannot focus. The world will just have to wait.
For now, maybe the old blog format will work best after all. Probably you’ll be seeing bits of the essay from time to time, and maybe you’ll see how they might fit together into a kaleidoscope, each piece a glimpse of a facet of the jewel lying hidden within the petals of the lotus.