How you have survived the clammy breezeless nights without my words to keep you cool, I do not know. However because our love is strong like Serena’s thighs and our trust levels high like Kanye’s self esteem, I have no choice but to assume you have forgiven my absence. Arigato :-)
This post is inspired by author Elizabeth Gilbert’s revelation today that she divorced her husband of 9 years in July because she has fallen in love with her female best friend Rayya Elias who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. Let’s back up a little in case there is anyone for whom her name doesn’t ring a bell. Remember ‘Eat Pray Love’? The 2006 memoir of one woman’s post divorce travels through Italy, India and Indonesia over the course of a year, which ends with her falling in love with a Brazilian business man? Granted it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but It was a hugely successful memoir made into a film starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem and produced by Brad Pitt. Gilbert even wrote a sequel to it pondering the topic of marriage, that was also a bestseller.
Now, I don’t really care what Elizabeth Gilbert does in her spare time – who she sleeps next to at night is certainly not my concern. What instantly struck me is how convenient this new turn of events in her personal life, is for her writing, especially as a writer of non-fiction. There is no way her agent or publishers won’t be (respectfully) scheming to cash in somehow. If she writes another memoir, its safe to say it will be a hugely successful bestseller.
That got me thinking about how possible it is for writers arrange their lives much like a pristinely staged instagram photo, just to generate a narrative from it. I couldn’t possibly accuse Gilbert of doing that but the situation is rather interesting. This dynamic is something usually associated with Journalism. A few months ago I read the article by revered Polish Journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski on the Nigerian Civil War. He visits Nigeria in January 1966 and purposely inserts himself in harms way (which he admits to doing) just to get a story out of it. His actual words were;
‘I am driving along a road where they say no white man can come back alive. I am driving to see if a white man can, because I have to experience everything for myself.’
What results is a beautifully written piece which horribly detracts from the subject matter (instead of the civil was he talks about race and colonialism – fairly irrelevant subjects in the political atmosphere he is covering) because he features too heavily in a narrative that has nothing to do with him, using the setting as a prop to adorn himself as the hero he’s built himself into. Don’t get me started on the racist undertones.
I think the way we live life in general lends itself to this idea of chasing narratives. We all want to take great photos that portray ourselves as living interesting lives. We all want to be the kind of person that does this cool thing or has all these fascinating experiences beyond the intrinsic value of those things. Surely part of the point of visiting 40 countries or flinging oneself into several death grazing experiences is that we get to tell people our ‘I’m a total badass’ stories rubbing smug satisfaction into our palms like cocoa butter.
Anyway, I’m back on duty now dear friends. I have been writing a lot recently, my quandary however is that a lot of what I’ve written recently has been aimed at publication/competitions so cannot feature here until I hear back from said publications/competitions. If you have ideas/suggestions for what I should write here be they within the categories I currently write or something completely different, i’d love to hear them. Lets make things interactive. Until then, ill keep things fairly weird …as usual :-)