The burning hidden to protect themselves from being revealed as burned. You imagine that the worst thing is that someone would know. The attention you need to heal you have been taught will end you. And it will—it will end the pain you have mistaken for yourself. The worst thing is not that someone would know.
The worst thing is that you might lay waste to your whole life by hiding. All of this meets along the edge of a sentence like this one, as if the sentence is a fence, with you on one side and me on the other. When the writing works best, I feel like I could poke one of these words out of place and find the writer's eye there, looking through to me. I was always having to be what I was looking for in the world, wishing the person I would become already existed — some other I before me. I was forever finding even the tiniest way to identify with someone to escape how empty the world seemed to be of what I was.
What if the novel in you is one you yourself would never read? A beach novel, a blockbuster, a long, windy, character-driven literary drama that ends sadly? What if the one novel in you is the opposite of your idea of yourself? When I bought the deck, it was for the same reason I bought the car: I felt too much like a character in a novel, buffeted by cruel turns of fate. I wanted to feel powerful in the face of my fate. I wanted to look over the top of my life and see what was coming.
I wanted to be the main character of this story, and its author. And if I were writing a novel about someone like me, this is exactly what would lead him astray. I've never met anyone ambivalent about this. I have been both kinds. For now, I think I know which one is better, but I'm prepared to change my mind again. It may be I am like that drunk who tells himself he can handle his alcohol now. But if I told you I could tell the future, you would laugh at me.
And I would laugh at me too. They move around my rooms, stripping half-finished poems of their lines, stealing ideas from unfinished essays, diaries, letters, and sometimes each other. Sometimes, by the time I get to them, one has taken a huge bite from the other. It is not my memory, not yours, and it is born and walks the bridges and roads of your mind, as long as it can. After it has left mine.
All my life I've been told this isn't important, that it doesn't matter. And yet I think it does. I think it is the real reason the people who would take everything from us say this. I think it's the same reason that when fascists come to power, writers are among the first to go to jail. And that is the point of writing. I felt covered, safe; something dark in me retreated and, for what felt like the first time in the arms of a man, I felt safe.
I was still me -- the switch was not flicked, but the terrible feeling haunting me then didn't reach me. Which is one of the things that love can feel like.
The Street Shrink Chronicles
Peter stayed there for some time. He may have fallen asleep at some point. And so it is that when I hear stories of how thin he became, I can't reconcile them with the weight of the boy who pinned me to myself, made me feel the place in me where I attached to the world. I like to believe, stupidly, that if I were to open the front door again, in the back I would find my roses, huge from their seaweed tea and the many days of six hours' sunlight, perhaps growing legs, ready to push down the building and walk out to the street, striking cars out of the way and slicing the blacktop to ribbons.
I want to think that they would miss me, their erstwhile tormentor, the one who pushed them so hard to grow, cutting and soaking them in the blazing sun from spring to winter.
Alexander Chee, HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL: ESSAYS | Print: A Bookstore
From the street, from across the river, where I live now without them, I can feel them still, the sap pulsing in their veins, pushing their way to the sky. But the creature that grew legs and walked away from the garden was me. It was as though he were creating a mask, and then choosing not to wear it. Early in the novel, Fee joins a choir. He loves stories and opera, and excels in high school, after which he goes on to Wesleyan, where he wears black and smokes cigarettes, all the while tailed by the psychological aftershocks of abuse.
In all of this, Fee matches his creator. In advance, innocent of what awaits, the pubescent Chee wakes from a dream in which he kisses his crush, a fellow-chorister who is also coming on the trip. For the first time, he realizes that he is gay. Overtaken by despair and shame, he is unable to face that what he has wanted so sincerely has been so profoundly corrupted.
He retreats. The doll woke up, stretched, looked around, and believed it was me. You could get the bends.
And purification. Instead, he got on with his life, until he realized that the repression that had allowed him to function was also paralyzing him. The real-life perpetrator had previously avoided conviction in a similar case, in a different state. But they did fit into a novel. Through fiction, Chee was able to bring himself back to the real world. We look at how society became fascinated with its own image, and try to find the truth behind selfie-taking. Recommended Stories.
Related THE STREET: An Autobiographical Novel
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