Friday, December 21, 2007
Girl With A Loaded Gun
Iris Chang wrote the Rape of Nanking, a book about well, rape, the plunder of thousands of women and beheading of many men, the systematic and little explored massacre of the Chinese by the Japanese Imperial Army. It spent ten weeks on the bestseller list. Her book was the first to document this atrocity. Like any dedicated writer, she started on her next couple of books, one about the Bataan death march. This is a girl clearly after my own heart! But the terrible news is despite her success that her psyche collapsed under the weight of her own depression and the sadness of the stories she told and she killed herself. Which begs the question -- do we pick our subjects or do they pick us? And if it is as I believe that they pick us, what are we to do if our subject matter is a tad on the bleak side?
As a child, I was periodically grounded from books. By books, I mean the ones I checked out at the library that gave me nightmares -- the worst offender was the sermons of Cotton Mather. No more Cotton Mather for you, Shelley, my mother would say. You will stick to whatever kiddie books the librarian gives you. I, being bad, got around this prohibition. I'd cry and say, Yes, Mother, you're right. No more books about witches and being burned at the stake. No more sermons about hell. I'll read Rebecca of Littlebrook Farm. Promise! And with my eyes aglow with good intentions, I'd go off to the library with Daddy every Saturday and get around the matronizing librarians of Boyce Ditto and cruise over to the adult section, looking for my old friends, like a junkie waiting for his man. My mind never gave me any peace. It wanted what it wanted! Years later, I would find my subject matter or it found me. I can't say that I'm glad for it, but I'm not sad either. As a child, one of my favorite pictures was a lone woman on a city street at night, skyscrapers all around her. It spoke of danger and romance, glamour. It spoke of a kind of lonely that I wanted. The stories that I began to tell weren't the Rape of Nanking, but the stories of women I know who have suffered violence at the hands of men and sometimes found ways to turn it on themselves. We have been given guns of all sorts, and if we're lucky, we know where to aim.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I had considered running away, but I will never escape my thoughts or agonies in my mind." Iris Chang (from the third and final draft of her suicide note)
Drinking holiday song suggestion: Feed The World (what can I say, I'm a child of the 80s! I love this song!)
Benedictions and Maledictions