Monday morning and I am incapable of philosophical thought, a great pity because my mermaid needs to make a decision about her ontological status as a woman with a tail. I had a fit of inspiration last night and wrote two new chapters of fiction all about sea horses and the hippocampus, the colour blue in a tidal grotto, a fat-breasted manatee and the Chaldean sea god Oannes. My little mermaid is sitting all alone on a rock singing to herself and staring down through watery depths to where the bones of drowned sailors lie. I have no idea what she will do next.
The small boy who lives three streets away is going to turn five and his parents are giving him Maurice Sendak’s first book in 30 years, Bumble-Ardy, about a little pig who throws a wild and wicked birthday party for himself because he has never been allowed to celebrate his birthday. The parents are scared by Maurice Sendak, but their children are not. From an interview with Sendak:
In interviews you’ve spoken disparagingly about what you call “Kiddiebookland,” the kingdom of saccharine, squeaky-clean books that depict children as innocent and guileless. Why do the authors and publishers of these books misjudge children and childhood?
Well, when a kid writes to me–as a kid did write to me–and says: “I hate your book. I hope you die soon. Cordially.” Well, the combination of “I hope you die soon” and “cordially” is wonderful. It shows how bewildering the whole thing was to her–and to me.
She was allowing herself to hate. “I hate your book.” But she’d learned in school that you’re supposed to end your letter with the words “cordially” or “best wishes.” And so they combine both without thinking there’s something goofy in such a thing. But that’s their charm, and that’s what we lose by growing up–lose, lose, lose. And if we’re lucky, it happens again when we’re old. And I’d like to believe that it is happening to me. Things that were so wonderful to me come back now. And I’m so grateful–because I wouldn’t know how to start otherwise. But it’s happening. And I think Bumble-Ardy is in a first, for me, in many ways.
From an email to a friend:
One thing I have always resisted is the idea that we are hard-wired for certain grim destinies or futures — once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, always a loser, always having to settle for less, always somehow wounded or incapable, etc. That kind of doom-and-gloom thinking. The other day I was thinking about the phrase we mentioned a few weeks ago ‘cunning, baffling and powerful’ which makes so much sense in certain contexts, but not in others. It struck me that it is anthropomorphic. As if we were describing a person or a bogeyman, not an addiction. And alcohol or the addiction to alcohol is not in itself cunning or baffling or powerful, that is just how we feel about it and about our need of it. Once we stop drinking, there is nothing to fear. And people get sober every single day. We are capable of change and able to reclaim our lives, work to change our situations and resolve long-standing problems. We are resourceful and creative, all of us. Unlearning ways in which we give away our power is part of that.