“The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”
I know that a writer is not supposed to open up and gush about their own problems on the Internet–or I imagine they aren’t. I always secretly envied the poise of the British stiff upper lip–but I never had it. My fear tonight is that I will never “make it.” I suppose all writers have this fear, this belief that their public will let them down. It is not for nothing that the Encyclopedia Britannica at one time said that Charles Dickens’ real love was not his wife Catherine Hogarth nor even his mistress Ellen Ternan, but his public itself. That was why, presumably, when he had made his fortune and the books he churned out were no longer as popular as the ones he’d written the past, he kept right on writing. I feel that need, too, and if I have yet to sell the reason I keep write on writing and not finding a nine-to-five job, that is why. Luckily my mother–I live in her house–is a very forgiving person. Plus, I cook well, and that passes for “work.” Tomorrow night we shall have spaghetti.
I know all of my characters intimately, and in a way they are my real friends. Not that I don’t have friends at the places where I’ve volunteered or worked or gone to shul. Just that the world in my imagination is so seductive, that when I have trouble at those places I retreat into my inner world. I think when I was young this was regarded as a sign of ill-health. In a sense it was, because one trait of my depression at thirteen was that I “isolated,” reading Star Trek novels, writing depressed poetry, and drawing cats by myself. My books were always a vital part of me. When I got over being afraid of the world, I did not leave them behind.
In “The Bible According to Eve” I spent a lot of time with the co-wives and concubines of the Patriarchs. Sarah abused her maid Hagar who had produced Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael–only for Ishmael to abuse Isaac, Sarah’s son, and be thrown out of the family. Rebecca was the woman who began as a “promise” and ended as a manipulative mother who wrought unhappiness on her children. I was secretly fond of “Plain Leah,” and imagined that Rachel’s demand for “sons” was a covert expression of lust. Bilhah played the floosy with her master’s son (Reuben) and Zilpah was the lesbian (with her unrequited love of Leah). Of course their were older women–Adah and Zillah, the first women to be married by the same man at the same time… Noah’s wife, unnamed like Lot’s… and of course the real teller of their tales is Eve, a stand in for Hadassah (Me).
As a child I read from two sets of books, the Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High. Though the latter series is for high school students I read it in Middle School. I still like the Babysitter’s Club in one sense: It is one of the better series for adolescent girls. The girls themselves were memorable, and easily identified with by young readers. It is true that it is not a series of books I go back to read anymore, but I have fond memories of Kristy (the tomboy), Mary Anne (the shy one), Claudia (the crazy dresser), Stacy (the diabetic) and Dawn (the vegan). They were each more than these thin descriptions admit. However, I believe that they truly did give good reading to my adolescence.
Sweet Valley High… I still think of it as a superficial series. It comes out of the world of soap operas and romance novels and is all about boys and popularity and sex. It in no way resembled my high school years. Of course, I was not especially popular in high school, but I still thought even those kids who were had school work, sports, and friendships with kids of their own gender. I had one boyfriend in high school, and that was fairly typical. It was not that I or anyone else–not even the girls who got pregnant–had lovers by the dozen in the grand tradition of Hollywood stars. Jessica, for those who have ever read, is the “slut” and Elizabeth the “good” one. This last was a little odd; however benign it was supposed to be, she ran the school gossip column. I believe we had a high school newspaper… maybe we did… certainly no gossip column. Of course, whatever it would have said would have been watched by “responsible adults.”
Where was I? Oh, yes: lives of quiet desperation. I do feel that way as I wait for November to see what my book sales are. I know there are writers like Melville whose greatness is not recognized till after their death. I could not bear to be one.