OK. So I gone and done it, dammit.
I’m sure you all know the story of the Wide-Mouthed Frog, and, while the details are fuzzy to me now, and I don’t have time to look it up, I’m starting to feel like that story is the story of my life (actually, I’ve always felt that way, so I guess it’s no coincidence that I ended up landing here in this Pond).
So, in the interest of diminishing the ongoing ripples and ruffling of feathers, I have decided to do the deed….
It’s very bare bones at the moment and I’m learning as I go, as they say.
Yes, I fully intend to be adding links and buzzers and bells and all that, but for now…here ’tis. Ignore it, abhor it, adore it or just shake your head and walk away.
From the State Department of Corrections to the University of Chicago in Forty-Four Years of the Best and the Worst of Times
Well, so here it is. Here I am. Officially blogged on, and I can’t even tell you what this blog is supposed to be or is going to be about. A place to write, I guess.
I don’t know, either; all I can say is that I write because I cannot not write, and this has been the one constant in a life that has been in constant flux. A life lived on three continents, in two and a half languages (at least), one that has been a precarious balancing act between various strands of ethnic identity and cultural involvement/affiliation, from one end of the economic spectrum to the other: From the State Department of Corrections to the University of Chicago in Forty-Four Years of the Best and the Worst of Times.
Three continents: Africa, Europe, and Turtle Island.
Two and a half languages: English, German, and a half-assed, vaguely intelligible French–enough to get from the airport to the goat market in Guinea, West Africa, I suppose. Not enough to get me in (or out) of any trouble, and that’s probably a good thing.
Various strands of ethnic identity: German-Jewish-Native-American(Ojibwe)Female. A volatile mix, I suppose, but not as atypical or exotic as it may seem to some.
And cultural involvement/affiliation: African drums and cultural arts, literary and historical translation (German to English), academic (PhD, Germanic Studies); original, creative writing from a (mostly) Native American perspective.
I am a published writer. But what does that really mean? I don’t know either, I only know that, every since I began writing at the age of 9 or 10, that’s all I ever wanted to be. A published writer. I never did and still don’t have any desire to be a “best-selling” author, but I do want to be an author whose words are read, or at least whose words are “out there”–in print–and available for anyone in the world to see. And they are. It’s all icing on the cake from here.
There isn’t a writer out there who can honestly say s/he writes “just for him/herself.” Writers write with the intent of being heard. If they didn’t, Microsoft Word and a mega hard-drive with enough gigabytes to contain lifetimes would suffice–there would be no need for Blogger or Blogspot and the entire Blogosphere would be an uninhabited wasteland that would put T.S. Eliot to shame. Writers write because they think of themselves as “good” writers. The false humility of those who would preface their words with bullshit qualifiers like “well, I know I’m not the greatest writer in the world…” (or variations thereof) seems utterly transparent to me, and usually the first sign that I’m not going to like half of what this particular writer has to say. To me, it is as much a turn-off as the false pride of jingoistic nationalism we see parading across our TV screens like tickertape in the form of that pathetic piece of “human waste” that is GWB & Co.
If you’re not writing with the intent of being or becoming a “good” writer, if only by your own standards, then throw in the goddamned towel. But if you do write with the intent of being or becoming a “good” writer, you will question your every word, you will search and re-search the dictionary, the thesaurus, you will follow etymologies and allusions (literary, historical and above all personal), you will scour the archives of your own memory and mind–for the better word, the perfect word, the word that is like porridge and “just right.” You will be a relentless self-editor. You will be ruthless: with your readers and with yourself. You will trim and pare, tweak and tweak–and you will not be averse to looking back at what you’ve written and say to yourself, “this is a piece of shit!” and hit “delete.”
(That said, be advised that this piece, too, could disappear tomorrow just as quickly as it emerged from the ether this morning.)
OK, so we write because we think of ourselves as “good” writers, and I suppose the only advantage of being a “published writer” is that someone somewhere has validated that sneaking suspicion all writers share: I think I am a “good” writer. I think I have something important to say. For me, after about thirty years of thinking that and thirty years of betting on that nagging suspicion that keeps me glued to the keyboard, the day that first letter of acceptance came on the heels of about 175 rejection slips–well, it was a momentous day, one I shall never forget. And in 1999, when (in my capacity as assistant editor to the German Quarterly) I arrived at the “privileged” place of writing the rejection/acceptance slips, the memory of that moment served me well. Gentle with the rejections. Jubilant with the acceptances: lay it on! Bring it on. Yeah. Dear Author: We’re going to print this. Have a great, great day. Enjoy.
For the past few years–and this happened pretty much imperceptibly–I have been a “professional writer”–that is, I make my living as a writer, mostly in the field of translation. It’s not all that I do–I am also an occasional professor (of German language literature), a performing artist and arts educator: writing, especially the kind of writing I do, is not exactly worth its weight in gold.
Many hats to wear in world which, despite protestations and proclamations to the contrary, is hostile to diversity in any real sense of the wor(l)d. Too many arms of experience reaching from one hemisphere to the next can seem like a threat, especially to people who fear and at the same time confine themselves to the narrow constricts of their own four walls, and don’t worry about what the rest of the world would look like if it were to be paved over with American strip-malls. Onward! Immer gerade aus! Los! March.
Freedom on the March!
The Freedom to Shop, or as Donald Rumsfeld once so aptly stated, “Free people are free to commit crimes.”
The freedom to descend into criminality, lawlessness, mindlessness. The freedom from accountability.
None of it interests me.
Freedom is overrated, at the expense of justice, at the expense of sanity, at the expense of critical thinking; freedom, at the expense of peace.
By way of introduction, readers interested in getting a better idea of what I’m about are encouraged to have a look at my most recent piece, which includes links to many other pieces I have been scattering here and there on the Internet and in the print media for the past couple of years.
If you manage to get through that without taking offense, calling the FBI or reporting me to my employers, well….then feel free to come back and visit. I’m sure there will be plenty more where that came from.
You will note that there is no room for comments on this blog. I’m tired of fighting with anonymous cyberfictions over everything from the color of my underwear to the thickness of my skin (alternately, the color of my skin and the thickness of my underwear). Anyone who is interested in commenting on this or conversing can strike up a conversation with me in one of the public forums in which my work is posted. If we hit it off, well, who knows, maybe there’s room for us to get real. If not, live and let live; you go your way, I’ll go mine. Whoever you are, I wish you the best.
You are free to ignore me. You are not free to beat the shit out of me because you don’t like what I have to say. That’s all I’ve got to say–for today!