Monday, October 09, 2006

Eleven Kinds of Weirdness

Last week I posted a poem by David Bottoms, remarking how much he reminded me of Carver and Shep commented that he'd recently found Richard Yates, whose Revolutionary Road also reminded him of Carver. (It's a regular Carver lovefest here, you see.)

So, being as I had a little time on my hands and am currently book-less, I put my little Nancy Drew hat on and started reading whichever reviews and/or any commentary I could find on Yates, being not as familiar with him as I perhaps ought to have been. (Of course I was hoping for some online excerpts or perhaps even entire stories, but oh well. Cheapskates can't be choosy.)

An article over at Boston Review was particularly illuminating, not just about the man's work but also about his relative obscurity.

(An interesting aspect of the essay is Stewart O'nan's self-reflection in the face of Yates' relative current obscurity... O'nan writes:

To write so well and then to be forgotten is a terrifying legacy. I always think that if I write well enough, the people in my books–the world of those books–will somehow survive. In time the shoddy and trendy work will fall away and the good books will rise to the top. It’s not reputation that matters, since reputations are regularly pumped up by self-serving agents and publicists and booksellers, by the star machinery of Random House and the New Yorker; what matters is what the author has achieved in the work, on the page. Once it’s between covers, they can’t take it away from you; they have to acknowledge its worth. As a writer, I have to believe that.")

All of this is well and good and I marked off a couple of interesting passages while I was on the elliptical machine at the gym tonight but what made me stop mid-stride and stare down at the page in utter astonishment was the fact that Yates' first collection of stories was called Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.

Now. I think I've written about my obsessive reading as a child. (There was that whole bringing books into the shower with me thing that I confessed on one of my Thursday 13 Things About Minerva Jane...) Sure, it was an odd girlhood. We were never allowed to spend extra money on clothes or toys or sweet treats or (eventually) make-up but at least once a month they'd take us to the local bookstore--in this case a Walden's--and let us loose. We could get up to 10 books--and this was at full price. (Now I cringe at the thought: hadn't my parents ever heard of used bookstores for christ's sake? How on earth did they afford such extravagances?) In this way I accumulated a lot of books that I only half-heartedly read, or read in spurts, or read way before I was mature enough to understand them.

And one of those books was Eleven Kinds of Loneliness. Why does this title out of all those other casually-acquired texts stand out in my mind? Well. I remember being struck by three things when I saw that book on the stand at the bookstore in Cabin John Mall: 1) other people felt that black hole of loneliness I'd never been able to explain; 2) there were apparently ten other kinds besides the one I was feeling; and 3) these lonelinesses were things other people found interesting enough to write about and actually read about.

It planted the seed of an idea: maybe if I wrote about it--meaning my teenaged angst-filled loneliness--it wouldn't feel so bad. A warding off, you see. A way of diluting.



Blogger Diana said...

This is interesting. Perhaps we should do postings on our kinds of loneliness. Like a tag?

1:31 AM  
Blogger Minerva Jane said...

Great idea. We can each list our own 11 lonelinesses...

9:42 AM  

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