“Unfortunately, I seem rather short of tears, so my sorrows have to stay inside me.” ~ Nadine Gordimer, Interview in The Guardian (9 March 2012)

Nadine Gordimer 1981 BBC
Nadine Gordimer (BBC, 1981)

Goodbye Nadine Gordimer
(November 12, 1923 – July 14, 2014)

I’m fairly certain that I learned of Gordimer through Mari. As usual, she was so right in her recommendations. Gordimer’s work was simply beautiful, her mastery of language enviable. In 1991, Gordimer wond the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was the first South African to win, and the first woman in 25 years to win. Gordimer was an outspoken opponent of apartheid, and as a result, three of her books were banned in her country. In 1991, Los Angeles Times correspondent Scott Kraft said of Gordimer that “this unassuming, strong-willed white woman has used her manual Hermes typewriter to give the world some of the most perceptive and uncompromising works of fiction ever written about her homeland, South Africa.” After his release from prison, Nelson Mandela asked to meet with Gordimer. Here is a link to Gordimer’s essay on Nelson Mandela, which appeared in the New Yorker in 2013.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the Nobel Laureate:

“I’m a candle flame that sways in currents of air you can’t see. You need to be the one who steadies me to burn.” (from The House Gun)

“At four in the afternoon the old moon bleeds radiance into the grey sky.” (from “My Father Leaves Home”)

“The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.” (from “A Bolter and the Invincible Summer”)

“Any writer of any worth at all hopes to play only a pocket-torch of light — and rarely, through genius, a sudden flambeau — into the bloody yet beautiful labyrinth of human experience, of being.” (from “Writing and Being,” Nobel Lecture, 1991)

“A desert is a place without expectation.” (from “Telling Times”)

“I never thought about the prize [Nobel] when I wrote. Writing is not a horse race.” (after learning that she had won in 1991)


Here are some links:

The Guardian’s obituary

The New York Times obituary

Obituary in The Telegraph

Online archive of short stories in The New Yorker

Art of Fiction No. 77, Paris Review (Fall 1979/Spring 1980)

 

 

Advertisements

“I’m often amazed to think how they live, those people, and what an oppressed life it must be, because human beings must live in the world of ideas. This dimension in the human psyche is very important.” ~ Nadine Gordimer, The Paris Review

One of my favorite authors: Nadine Gordimer, from an interview in The Paris Review

INTERVIEWER

Do you have a fascination with death?

GORDIMER

Not consciously, but then . . . how can any thinking person not have? Death is really the mystery of life, isn’t it? If you ask, “What happens when we die? Why do we die?” you are asking, “Why do we live?” Unless one has a religion . . . Without a religious explanation, one has only the Mount Everest argument: “I climb it because it’s there. I live because there is the gift of life.” It’s not an answer, really, it’s an evasion. Or, “I think my purpose on this earth is to make life better.” Progress is the business of making life more safe and more enjoyable . . . fuller, generally. But that justification, it stops short of death, doesn’t it? The only transcendent principle is that you are then seeking to improve the human lot for future generations. But we still don’t get past the fact that it’s a turnabout business; it’s your turn and then it’s mine, and life is taken up by somebody else. Human beings are never reconciled to this. In my own life I am made puzzled and uneasy by my attitude and that of others to death. If somebody dies young it’s so terrible, it’s such a tragedy, and the sense of waste is so strong; you think of all the promise that was there. And then if people live into old age, there’s the horror of decay, especially—it’s awful to say—but especially with exceptional people; when you see their minds going and their bodies falling to pieces, and they want to die and you want them to die, then that’s equally terrible. So it’s the mere fact of death that we can’t accept? We say it’s terrible if people die young, and we say it’s terrible if they go on living too long.

~ Nadine Gordimer, The Art of Fiction No. 77

Cracks in the Rose-Colored Glasses

badain-jaran-desert

“A desert is a place without expecation” ~ Nadine Gordimer 

” . . . A Corner of the Mournful Kingdom of Sand” ~ Pierre Loti

I’m not really sure how to begin to describe the state in which I have found myself me these past few days, but I think, fear, that I am moving into a dry, unproductive period again, and it’s actually really pissing me off. I mean, here I am, all proud of myself for the discipline that I’ve been devoting to my writing in the last four, five months. Sitting here at this computer, opining on this, commenting on that, and the words flowing so freely that putting in my self-imposed two hours just seemed to be that—self-imposed and therefore needless. After all, I was spending much more time than that each day . . . doing what, exactly?

questions

Practicing my craft? Is that what I’ve really been doing: honing my writing skills, amassing thoughts and passages that I could assimilate into that wonderful creation that would be . . . what?

I’ve been so enamored of my routine, something that I could never before master, that I had actually forgotten about the equally engrossing but far less proliferate phenomenon: writer’s block. As in, I can think of nothing to say. Nothing of substance, that is. Or to be more precise, I still have much to say, enough for eons actually, but I cannot make the words work. They are not connecting, as if some synapse somewhere in my recesses has shut down and is refusing to fire.

So this leaves me . . . patently pissed off, perplexed, panicked, and paranoid, even. After months and months of an endless flow, what has changed? Has something in me changed or has my ability to let my fingers wander freely over these keys been damaged by something else? Is it temporary? Days, perhaps weeks. Or will it be like the last time? Years before I could find my way back to words, lost in mile after mile of a  desert barren of creative invention.

Hence I am in a state of heightened anxiety, which, as any of you who create know, only exacerbates the problem. Do I call a time out? Do I say firmly to myself, “Step away from the keyboard until you can make it sing again,” or do I fumble my way through this.

I have two theories about my current state, neither of which are good:

The first, is that I have just been slowly weaned off my migraine medicine, which I had been on for several years. The number of bad side effects was beginning to counteract the very real benefit of migraine prevention, or at least slowdown. While on this medicine, I noticed that my ability to speak was being impaired, as in, I could not find words, could not articulate, could not remember the names of common items. As I said to my doctor, this loss of articulation, train of thought, is a kind of hell for someone who used to teach English.

In addition, I was losing hand-fulls of hair, which, even when you have as much hair as I do, can be quite worrisome. And, I always felt drained and tired. Malaise was a constant companion. Granted, the drained and tired may or may not be related to the medicine as I do have other conditions that could be causing the fatigue, but was the medicine actually making the fatigue worse? Or how about constant tingling in the wrists, which was not as I had assumed, carpal tunnel syndrome. (By the way, it just took me two minutes to remember the phrase carpal tunnel syndrome.)

Case in point. I asked Corey, quite seriously, if I have always been like this, to which he replied in the negative. He has been telling me for a while that I was having memory problems, but I have staunchly denied it. I thought that it was stress, told myself it was stress. As it turns out, this doping effect on short-term memory is but one of the more common side effects of taking this medication long-term.

After some more research and reflection on these and several other wonderful side effects versus the benefit of having fewer migraines of shorter duration, I did think that perhaps a change in my medication was due, hence, the withdrawal.

With the withdrawal of this medicine from my system, I do have more energy, and my hair is no longer coming out in my hands in the shower. However, I cannot write. To borrow from just a recent post of mine, those three words are like Brutus’s “unkindest cut of all.”

Unfortunately, this whole scenario reminds me of what happened many years ago when the doctors first put my on the cure-all Prozac to get me through my interminable grief: Yes, I wasn’t crying all of the time. However, I also wasn’t feeling anything—at all—nothing. If I had had to describe myself in one word at that time, I would have used the word cardboard. I told the doctor who I was seeing at that time that I would rather be crying and depressed than a zombie. The Prozac went away and thus began my long trial and error with the pharmacopoeia of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds, a long and very crooked road that has brought me to this point in my post and to this post.

Am I no longer able to write because my chemical make-up has been altered so drastically by removing this one medicine to prevent migraines? And if so, just how powerful was that drug? And if the consequence of stopping that drug is that I cannot write, is it a price that I am willing to pay?

This introspection is more than mere navel-gazing; I assure you. If I cannot spend several hours a day writing, and I am not working any more, does my self-fulfilling prophesy about being on disability come true: that I will retire to my bedroom and become the hermit that I wrote about all those months ago?

What was the other theory? That I was never really able to write in the first place, and that, dear friends, is the slippery slope that many would-be writers, once they begin to ascend, often do not return from (end preposition acknowledged).

Navel-gazing is not for the faint of heart. More later? Peace.