Birds, love, anger: on not being Jonathan Franzen even though he is from St. Louis, too.
I entered my office at the college today for the first time since turning in my grades and was not particularly surprised to see papers sprayed all over the floor, a diet coke can open on the desk, folders bristling with unpleasant unfinished things. It was like a ghost ship, like all the sailors had just jumped off, which is actually pretty accurate since that’s how I always feel when I shut the door, like I have just leapt off and may never make it back again.
I heard Jon. Franzen talking about love on the radio today. I liked his sentiments: don’t settle for like, leap on in, like he did when he fell in love with birds; now he he travels all over the world to fight for them — birds, that is — and their environment. Instantly, I felt guilty. Not about birds. But about how I don’t plunge into life and travel around the world combatting the enemies of the things/creatures etc I love. And not only can I not do this, but I can’t clean my office or set up nice bookkeeping systems; I can’t even spell book-keeping. Not because I don’t want to. But because I am always being called away. It is time to pick up my son, go to a meeting, talk to a student. I can’t remember the last time I stopped working when my work was finished. Always, I am yanked away. And then I realized what makes me angry. What I could travel around and be mad about, like Franzen and his birds. The lives of women like myself. Today, my friend Carolyn, whose new book (Daughters of the Revolution) is so gorgeous I can’t quite believe she is my actual friend, told me that when our friend Kate was nominated for a National Book Award, the International Tribune referred to her and the other women nominees as the little women, or something like this — the small novelists, the lady novelists. Our work is so small. We can’t get huge marathon stretches of time. Because we are torn between our refrigerators and our cars and our notebooks and pens. There is something about Jon. Franzen and even my beloved David Foster Wallace that gets me. They are around my age, from the same part of the world and are thought of as huge, not small. I feel sandwiched by them, I think. But if I were to write about this anger, then I would hear that I don’t have a sense of humor which is what often happens to those of us who write about these things: angry feminists, we need to lighten up —