Monday, December 8

All Abject Things in the World

To say that I've gone back to work would be misleading for two reasons. One, as a freelancer I generally, though not always, work from home, so I haven't actually gone anywhere. Two, I did some paid work in October, which probably wasn't a great idea (the Critter was born mid-September), but it turns out we do need the money I earned then. Anyway. I'm working again—very, very part time—and trying to figure out how to be a work-from-home mom without neglecting the Critter, my clients, or myself. I've hired no child care (yet?), so it's been challenging, but not too, too bad. However, as you may have noticed, I haven't been able to write any new posts, including one I had planned to post on Thanksgiving. Also, I haven't been reading much these days.

But I have been reading some. I'm a student at the Writers Studio, so in the weeks since the Critter was born I've been doing my best to keep up with the Craft Class. One recent assignment, The Question of Bruno, by Aleksandar Hemon, has disturbed my peace.

Hemon grew up in Sarajevo, and in his inventive stories, Eastern European history, family history, and personal history are inalienably entwined. In vivid, idiosyncratic language, the stories portray, among other things, life in Stalin's camps, the siege of Sarajevo, and the isolation of a Bosnian immigrant in Chicago. "Don't torture the boy with these stories. He won't be able to sleep ever again," says the mother of the nine-year-old narrator in one story. "No, let him hear, he should know," replies the narrator's Uncle Julius. Perhaps, indeed, I too should know ... but I certainly do not want to know about children sent to Stalin's camps for the mere crime of truancy, for example. I do not want to know about Sniper Alley in Sarajevo, or the body left rotting in a bedroom because it is too dangerous to take it outside for a proper burial.

In an interview, Hemon has spoken against the tendency toward the "purification of life, including your own body" in both memory and fiction. "It becomes this clean, controllable object," he says. "All abject things about it, and by extension all abject things in the world, are presumably not supposed to be there. But if you want to remember the world, it's hard to do it without abject things."

I admit my guilt! I most certainly wish away the abject things of the world, especially from human nature! But wishing things away, of course, does not make them go away....

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