Sunday, April 10, 2011
Sunday Miracle -- A fish shaped like the state of Michigan! Some people see the Virgin Mary, I see the Mitten . . . Make of this what you will! Recently, I read a memoir titled Widow by Joyce Carol Oates. Her long-time husband, Raymond Smith, died a few years ago. Being a writer and a quite prolific one (mind-boggingly so), she wrote about the experience. I'd read The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion which covers the same bitter terrain of losing someone who is, in essence, your entire life. The Oates book is quite different -- while Didion maintains a somewhat clinical yet deeply touching tone, Oates takes a different tack. She goes for the moment by moment hysteria of grief, of self-laceration, of sleepless nights, and social awkwardness. It doesn't have the artistry of Didion's book, but I'm not sure that was the point. She's also describing a very different type of marriage. While Didion and her husband shared everything -- work, troubles, and a child, Oates contends that she and her husband spent most of their time together in an effort not to mention their work or things they found unpleasant or troubling. I've never had a relationship like this, so it seemed to me quite exotic. I liked it for its honesty. But when I discussed various parts of it with people, I found the reactions quite interesting. To note, Oates complains bitterly of the flowers and gift baskets of food she receives in the wake of her grief. When I mentioned this to a friend, she said, Send the food to Haiti, bitch. She complains about people mentioning her husband, complains about them not mentioning him. She complains of the letters she receives and the hardship of having to be a "good widow" and answer all of them. Strange, but I don't think anyone expects to be answered by someone in deep grief. And nobody knows what to say when someone dies. You always tread the ground of saying to much or not enough. Even so, I understood her delicate nature. One gets the sense that her husband shielded her from many of the difficulties of social interaction. Even so, I have to commend Oates for her ability to put it all down, every unflattering emotion. The memoir demands honesty and the ability to disregard judgement, especially one's own. So I give you guys the question -- do you find this kind of soul-baring off-putting or refreshing?
Benedictions and Maledictions Happy Sunday!