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Courage to look back?
Yesterday I asked myself if I was prepared to resume production of "The Insider." I am mostly saying, "Bring it on" and the ideas are flowing. But... a nagging question: Do I really want to go "back there" and relive the nausea? Haven't I moved on? Didn't I do my self-healing? Isn't the therapy over yet?
But, Susie-Q, this isn't supposed to be therapy. It's supposed to be Art.
In my last year of college — those heady days of 1969-70 — I read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut and Elie Wiesel. As someone who thought way to much about literature, I made an observation. Both men had gone through hell in World War II — Vonnegut as a prisoner of war during the Dresden fire-bombing and Wiesel in the Nazi concentration camps. Both became novelists. Yet it took them both 25 years to write a novel directly about their own experiences: Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5" and Wiesel's "Beggar in Jerusalem" (though Wiesel did do a lot of Holocaust writing before, this one seemed much more autobiographical to me at the time).
I asked myself why they waited. Vonnegut wrote all kinds of wise-ass science fiction while he had this terrifying story waiting to be told. This question clung to me without an answer: how does real life finally become art? How does a major life experience gradually ripen into a story that's ready to be told?
Maybe now's my chance to figure that out. The story I tell in 2006 about leaving the Institution at the end of 2003 is going to be different from the story I planned in 2004. It isn't "too late." It isn't "yesterday's news." The moment has not passed.
Does going back "there" after 3 years mean I can be more dispassionate, have some fun with it? Or does it mean I have enough distance to face the demons head on and not get all needy over it?
Guess I'll find out.
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