Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is it weakness of intellect, birdie, I cried, or a rather tough worm in your little inside?

In a fit of pique at you for some long forgotten specific, an individual to whom you were deeply close said, "You are not required to have an opinion about everything." The very formality of the rhetoric was also a clue to certain social standards that had been a part of an education that took for granted her having servants. You remember the exchange because it was so unlike her essential self in so many ways, but also because even then you were aware that in order to pursue some process by which you made your living from writing, you did indeed need to have an opinion about all the things you held in awareness.

There have been times--too many for comfort, actually--where even if you had an opinion, you were willing for some sake to not have one, or to sit on the one you had. This is part of what you like to think of as the interior War of the Roses, two houses or sides vying for the crown, which in this case was getting your way rather than accommodating. Not caring is of a piece with being asleep at the wheel, going through the motions of being awake and present but not caring enough to look about to see if there was some way to make some gains from doing something you did not wish to do or the even greater possibility of turning something you did not wish to do but had to do for some sake into an enormous plus. At the least, you are now in such circumstances able to see the play of subtext before you--what you do in arm wrestle with how you feel about what you do, or what you say and what you feel like saying.

As someone who is largely committed to being opinionated, you recognize the risky waters of giving offense, breaching boundaries of politeness,holding your tongue and/or in some way compromising the decisions and efforts that helped you evolve into the person you are now.

For a while you thought it was a simple matter of taste that dictated the way you felt toward writers you know personally or only through their works, but, late bloomer that you are, you see this extending across the entire field of expression where voice and opinion are required, thus your admiration of musicians, painters, sculptors, actors, photographers is also resident in your admiration for writers. Of course the reverse is true. "You do think David Sedaris is funny?" only last night. You had already seen things going wrong. "Not in the least," you said, not with intent to argue, although there was friendly willingness to do that; rather you were saying, as a writer you admire would have said, "No in thunder."

With this as prologue, there are writers whose successes thrill you and indeed they are successful with you. Even to the point of granting them an occasional off performance (Louise Erdrich's latest), you wish them well. Those whom your opinion leads you to disagree with may get the occasional, grudging awareness that something remarkable has finally come through. And there are those, particularly those you know personally, for whom your opinions will stubbornly rejoice when they step on the stage again, then trip. In this area at least you do not display meanness of spirit nor schadenfreude, merely the smugness of having chapter and verse to call them out on.