August 28th, 2008:
Sidetracked again; more than a month has passed since my last entry. This is an aptly named piece of writing, isn't it? I have spent my summer working on such fool's errands as yet another novel (don't get me wrong, I'm in love with it, otherwise, why bother?), the pursuit of financial security, (which is like refilling a leaky sieve every five minutes), and putting bandaids all over my social life. The bandaids consist of random phone calls, revised decisions, and the absolute knowledge that there are at least five people in the world I never want to see again. (I will probably run into all of them tomorrow).
However, I have to get back to my narrative, don't I? I left myself sitting there in my small but elegant West End Avenue dining room in New York City, the year longer ago than I want to remember,, contemplating my dirty dishes and my disordered life, and I began to learn the primary lesson of living a life filled with exercises in futility: Nothing Works.
Oh yes, sure. Things work for a while. We go on and are optomistic and feel good and think we have discovered the Secret, but then another Secret pops up and we have to start all over again. And maybe that's the point. Which leads me into my life pursuit of philosophy and the truth, which led me to Turkey and India and various strange venues all over the place, and which will ultimately take too long to describe, right here and now. So back to the New York apartment and the littered table and my great writing teacher, Edward Dahlberg, who by that point would no longer talk to me, probably because I rejected his advances, and my sense that I would never be the writer I wanted to be, and my sudden new realization that a lot of what was happening to me was because I was a woman, and young, and not so hard on the eyes that I sent people running for cover. All of which had followed on the reading of Pat Mainardi's "Politics of Housework" article and a sudden confrontation with the truth. (It's called an epiphany, as a matter of fact).
And in a year, David and I were divorced. Horribly, of course. Tears shed on both sides. (Mostly mine). A terrible sense of futility and loss, followed by a freedom so ecstatic I don't know how I stood it. Of course I was in love again within a week, (with a second David--maybe more of him later, maybe not) -- but that was then. I didn't know how to live alone, and it has taken me a lifetime to learn that most profound and wonderful of secrets. But that's another story. And here I am again: sidetracked.
I never saw Edward Dahlberg again, but I'm faithful. I still think he is one of the magnificent failures, one of the great writers of our time who was never sufficiently appreciated. Part of the problem may be that people like Dahlberg, and there very few, may really have an inkling of how exceptionally good their work is, no matter how bad they are at everything else. This is, as we all know, a world in which skim milk makes a fabulous living masquerading as cream and everybody screams with joy when they sip it because they don't know the difference. Some artists, some writers -- Edward Dahlberg, my friend Kate Braverman, and a few others -- really do know the difference. They know because they have tasted it, and at moments as they do their own work, the experience the wonder of seeing a real glory come to be in words or paint or stone or whatever, out of nothing. And I think that perhaps the joy of the accomplished craftsperson as he or she works surpasses any other joy we know on earth, except maybe the even quieter joy of secret meditation, meditation that doesn't bray about its effectiveness all over the place or wear little tinkling bells to draw attention to itself, but which takes place in the most hidden recesses of the mind;
So quiet is the ecstasy of producing something really beautiful, I think, that those who have experienced it have to be forgiven for being immensely overbearing when they're not in that state of unnameable ecstasy. Sure, they're annoying, insisting that they know something the rest of us do not. But after all, who can blame them? After all, they do! So I still love Dahlberg in some esoteric way, and will always read his work with a kind of awe, as if I were entering the Blue Mosque for the first time: a very similar experience.