Tuesday–before early winter

Reading Anne Sexton and Erich Fromm on fairy tales. I am writing an essay for submission, and when it comes to my family of origin, fairy tales and mythology are useful.

Also, Mavis Gallant, her volumes “Paris Stories” and “Varieties of Exile”; the latter is very instructive about Canada and the French. I had no idea that Gallant writes so extensively about this subject. Her work echoes the hidden glimpses of the French side in my family.  My great uncle Jean Charlemagne was a noted historian of French Canada.  Something to investigate.   Dignity, parochialism, “Parisian French”, winters, style, fine sewing.

The sick crabbed pursuit of what I would not want is gone. The awful old life, closed depthless small town people–gone.  A fine airiness and joy in my heart.  I will walk this morning through the park—bones of the land evident now–Forbes to Shady Avenue, 2 miles each way, then back.

I love the slight sense of urban decay, old monuments, broad boulevards here. Rattling oaks, silver birch.  Admittedly It is strange not to have the sharp air of New England. That clarity, and the unpopulated sense of risk. It was true what I told dear B, who was here this past weekend—in northern New England one gets used to limitation of movement from December-March.  You do not dare a drive.

Not so here, although people complain about overhanging grey skies.  “Will you be able to endure it?” Please. Thinking of my old nightmare commutes, 180 degree spins on ice, driving down 295 without being able to see, 20-30 cars off the road– I laughed.

From the Preface to “Paris Stories” of Mavis Gallant – Michael Ondaatje

“I had a great, great fear that I was bent on doing something for which I have no ability, and that took years and years to get rid of…that I was dedicating my life to something I was not fir for,” Gallant once told an interviewer…” I am uncertain about every line I write and I am uncertain until I get readers.”  With the arrival of that reader, the uncertainty about and unsafe life becomes a shared witnessing.   This, for a very few writers, becomes the purpose and meaning of a writer’s life.  “Like every other form of art,” Mavis Gallant has written, “literature is no and nothing less than a matter of life and death.”


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