August 16, 2012

My method of escapism

Through books. I read voraciously. Everything.

Today I read Pat Conroy's heartbreaking piece about divorce, written in 1978 in an Atlanta magazine.

I came across this brilliant American writer when I borrowed his audiobook My Reading Life.

On the commute to school, I listened to this author from the deep South, so far removed from my own life, reading from his book about his love of Gone With the Wind and his sojourns in Paris. I laughed out loud at his tales of buying the school librarian whiskey, getting kicked out of Adrienne Rich's poetry session and accompanying his English teacher to take students to pass their driving test.

And then I'd arrive at school and often be surprised to stumble past a classroom full of students because I was still so absorbed in his narrative.

I played the last chapter of the audiobook to the Writer's Club in our inaugural lunchtime meeting.

Having a place to discuss and share our love of books and writing is very special, especially for my students who do not get this opportunity in their own homes. It's wonderful.

Conroy's piece is about divorce. He does what all great writers do, and manages to so thoughtfully articulate the real guts of what he has learnt from the ordeal. We can all learn from this.

"I will try to tell honestly what it was like for a woman to have a relationship with me and what I was thinking and how I was feeling toward her and how it seemed like a very bad thing to love me. Because I was raised an American male, I will tell that I did not learn to give or receive affection, that I did not learn to weep when I was hurting, that I did not learn to love women in ways that made them feel secure and desirable and needed. I will tell of the day I told the great Atlanta therapist, Marion O'Neill, that whenever I uttered the words "I love you" to a woman, they had the hollow dispossessed sound of someone ordering a meal for the first time in a foreign language. I will tell that I felt inexhaustible but inexpressible reserves of love within me, and I searched for women who were able to translate my silences, interpreters who understood about the inarticulate lover screaming from within.

I looked for women who would make me more like women. And it was unfair and cruel to all of them and far too much to ask. I will tell about listening to feminists and reading Ms. Magazine and feeling as if every one of the women had studied me personally for a very long time. I will tell about being an American male in the Seventies and how I became a feminist because I thought it right and because I knew it was my only hope and the only hope for other men like me."

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