by Jane Summer
I am driving behind a tow truck. On its flatbed, a toothless black SUV faces me. A crucifix swings wildly from the rearview mirror. I’m thinking nothing can save us.
I’ve been sad lately. My book is about to come out. That doesn’t cheer me up.
In November our dog, a young girl, died hard. Afterward, I crept into my guardhouse. Barred it up. No admittance. The hollowness of her absence and my dumb, graceless inability to comprehend death’s facticity, even after so many heavy deaths, left me desperate for consolation that wasn’t fast in coming. I tried losing myself in books. I tried writing. I went to the movies.
Sometimes writing saves me. Sometimes it doesn’t.
My book comes out in six weeks. I’m sad as Harry Nilsson.
When your book comes out don’t be surprised to find yourself feeling low even if this is all you wanted in life, even if this is how you measure your worth in the world. It’s just a book. It goes up in flames quite rapidly. You will receive lovely reviews. But the only reviews you’ll remember are the stingers.
My two-week headache now has a partner in a cracked molar. I grit my teeth unawares. In my new health plan, all my doctors get one-star reviews. Medicaid. The rich and the poor. My mother says, “Honey, you knew what you were getting into when you decided to be a writer.” I decided? That’s like saying I decided to breathe.
I’m sad I can’t figure out how to write about our dog. I’m sad about the beautiful snow. A Bernese Mountain Dog, she would’ve been so joyful in it.
I feel guilty being a writer and using my library card to rent movies. Movies I’ve seen many times before. Persona. Kinoshita’s Twenty-four Eyes. Mulholland Drive. Anything Antonioni. L’Avventura. La Notte. L’Eclisse. Movies that were more than effective storytelling. Movies they rarely make today. That was art. People didn’t eat burgers and stuff after seeing those movies.
Every day I think of the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls. The unraveling of the Voting Rights Act. There’s sorrow in this world. But I’m slammed with it right now. I’m voracious for art now.
Everyone knows an a-hole writer or two but maybe writers in general leave themselves emotionally open to outrages. And to compound these losses, maybe when a writer’s book comes out, it naturally initiates a mourning process. Publishing represents not only a birth but also a death: Your book has become untouchable. In fact, all you can (must) do for it is sell it. To me, that’s a business as unsavory as the black market trading of body parts.
But it’s the job.
So we writers scribble on to the next territory and try to find some likeminded souls along the way. But today, I’m off to the movies.
A 2013 MFA graduate from Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, Jane Summer’s cross-genre Erebus will be out March 12, 2015 from Sibling Rivalry Press. She most recently saw Selma, which struck her with paroxysms of grief. Visit Jane Summer at http://janegsp.wix.com/janesummer or on Twitter @ugofast.
by Jane Summer