“the standard of dressing for the prospective mother should be garments of the lightest wool and silk if possible, so lightly hung that a butterfly can walk the length of her body without tearing its wings…. If she is wise she will work in direct contact with sunlit earth. Gardening ensures the truest sense of physical well-being.”
Writers who over protect themselves produce pallid results. Philip Roth said he found niceness even more deadly in writers than he did in people generally.
Whatever happens to the writer is fair game – material. Even the rage of family members can be a source of literary energy. Writers by definition talk behind other people’s back. Much of their work is refined gossip. They are snoopers, eaves droppers.
“I am of a generation that did not know their parents as just plain folks – as Tom and Agnes. Eddie and Wanda. Ted and Dorie – as democratically undifferentiated from their children as ballots in a box. I never once thought to call my parents by their first names, never thought of their lives – remote as they were – as being like mine, their fears the equal of my fears, their smallest desires mirrors of everyone else’s. They were my parents higher in terms absolute and unknowable. I didn’t know how they financed their cars. When they made love or how they liked it. Who they had their insurance with. What their doctor told them privately (though they must have heard bad news eventually). They simply loved me and I them. The rest they didn’t feel the need to blab about. That there should always be something important I wouldn’t know, but could wonder at, wander near, yet never be certain about was, as far as I am concerned, their greatest gift and lesson. ‘You don’t need to know that’ was something I was told all the time. I had no idea what they had in mind by not telling me. Probably nothing. Possibly they thought I would come to truths ( and facts) on my own; or maybe – and this is my real guess – they thought I’d never know and be happier for it, and that not knowing would itself be pretty significant and satisfying.”
“The novelist E.M Forster writes: ‘a wonderful physical tie binds the parents to the children; and – by some sad strange irony – it does not bind us children to our parents.’ He imagines the possibilities ‘if we could answer their love not with gratitude but equal love.’ The entrancement, the concern, the intuition of a parent can’t be neatly returned. But I don’t think it’s lost…..
It seems to me that for Forster, we humans stand in a column, loving the child in front of us, who will grow with their back to us and will in time love the child in front of them, who turns their back to love their own, and so on. But is he right? Am I taking the time to write this, I ask myself, with my back to my father?”
“This was the man who would not submit to her need for probing intimacy, overintimacy, the urge to ask, examine, delve, draw things out, trade secrets, tell everything. It was a need that had the body in it, hands, feet, genitals, scummy odours, clotted dirt, even if it was all talk or sleepy murmur. She wanted to absorb everything, childlike, the dust of stray sensation, whatever she could breathe in from other people’s pores. She used to think she was other people. Other people have truer lives.”