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Throughout my life, I've often been accused of being overly sensitive.  From the time I was a young girl, my family often made fun of me for it.  For years I had a poster tacked to my bedroom door that read: "Be careful what you say to me, I'm a highly sensitive human being."  So it should come as little surprise when I acknowledge that I have a way of identifying full-heartedly with characters in books and films.  And I'm not talking simple empathy with a character's thoughts and actions; I feel like I am the character. 

In the most recent novel I read, The World According to Garp, the main character had a way of describing his life as a writer that so similarly to the way I feel about being an artist that it was almost creepy.  It was as if John Irving somehow had found a door into my head - the head of person he doesn't even know exists - walked in, and started rooting around until *bing* he uncovered my anxieties with painful accuracy.  This is the cringe-worthy excerpt that could be a description of my life (if you substitute the word "artist" for "writer" and "she/her" for "he/him"):

"I should get out more, Garp thought.  If I had a job, he thought - a thought he had every day, and rethought every day, since he wasn't writing. 

There was almost no job in the world he was qualified for; he was qualified, he knew, for very little.  He could write; when he was writing, he believed he wrote very well.  But one reason he thought about getting a job was that he felt he needed to know more about other people; he wanted to get over his distrust of them.   A job would at least force him to come into contact - and if he weren't forced to be with other people, Garp would stay home. 

It was for his writing, in the beginning, that he had never taken the idea of a job seriously.  Now it was for his writing that he was thinking he needed a job."
 

About juggling the burden of working from home and the challenges associated with it, the novel continues:

"...ironing was the only task of conventional housewifery that Garp rejected.  The cooking...the basic laundry, the cleaning up - he did them.  The cooking expertly; ... the cleaning up, a little compulsively.  He swore at errant clothes, dishes...but he let nothing lie; he was a maniac for picking things up.  Some mornings, before he sat down to write, he raced over the house with a vacuum cleaner, or he cleaned the oven.  The house never looked untidy, was never dirty, but there was always a certain haste to the neatness of it.  Garp threw a lot of things away and he would allow most of the light bulbs to burn out, unreplaced, until Helen would realize that they were living in almost total darkness, huddled around the two lamps that worked.  Or when he remembered the lights, he forgot the soap and the toothpaste."

 


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