She [Mary Maclane] is almost always referred to as 'confessional.' She has been referred to, several times, as the first blogger. Whereas her writing does not confess much - it is much more spiritual memoir than anything, or perhaps something akin to a mystic's courtly love, directed at the self. I am wondering what distinguishes writing as confessional... I keep on feeling I prefer the latter-day MacLane, the diary she wrote while convalescing from scarlet fever back home in Butte, Montana, I, Mary MacLane, that Melville House is only publishing as an ebook. Mary MacLane melancholy, totally isolated. Feeling intense disquiet. Now in her early thirties, meditating on her whirlwind celebrity, in cities, feeling distanced from all that, but longing for it too. Obsessed with the Mary MacLane who stopped writing, or stopped publishing books, who was involved with the anarchist/bohemian crowd in Chicago, with the Dill Pickle, who died in poverty and obscurity on the South Side at the age of 48. I want to write about her, but I don't know how or why yet.
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The green girl necessarily pines for the past, because the present is too uncomfortable to be present in and the future, unimaginable. The need to long, to desire that which she cannot have, that which has eluded her, because she deceives herself that it was this person, this chance, where she would have found happiness.
Lots of talk lately about the GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL that seems to be exclusively masculine. And how many of the characters in the GENIUS BOOKS are likable? Is Holden Caulfield likable? Is Meursault in The Stranger? Is Henry Miller? Is any character in any of these system novels particularly likable? Aren't they usually loathsome but human, etc., loathsome and neurotic and obsessed? In my memory, all the characters in Jonathan Franzen are total douchebags (I know, I know, I'm not supposed to use that, feminine imagery, whatever, but it is SO satisfying to say and think). How about female characters in the genius books? Was Madame Bovary likable? Was Anna Karenina? Is Daisy Buchanan likable? Is Daisy Miller? Is it the specific way in which supposed readers HATE unlikable female characters (who are too depressed, too crazy, too vain, too self-involved, too bored, too boring), that mirrors the specific way in which people HATE unlikable girls and women for the same qualities? We do not allow, really, the notion of the antiheroine, as penned by women, because we confuse the autobiographical, and we pass judgment on the female author for her terrible self-involved and indulgent life. We do not hate Scott Fitzgerald in 'The Crack-Up' or Georges Bataille in Guilty for being drunken and totally wading in their own pathos, but Jean Rhys is too much of a victim.
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I try to tell student writers to read as much as possible, not only literature but philosophy, theory, and to form obsessions. There's a big taboo in fiction creative writing workshops against using the self at all, and I think I try to encourage students to write the self, but to connect the self to something larger, which is to be this thinking, seeing, searching, eternally curious person, and that writing can come out of investigating and trying to understand confusion, and doubts, and obsessions.
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