Friday, May 13, 2011

Thank goodness

Thank goodness for parents. While you're off finding yourself and sipping apple tea in Turkey, they store all your crap. They even store crap you didn't ask them to, like your diaries from seventh grade that you would have burned if you'd known they still existed. Thank goodness you weren't allowed within reach of matches back then. Because if you just wait long enough, you see those old writings in a new light and, just like the Eighties, they may even become cool again.

Thank goodness I came home to Washington with a relatively empty suitcase, because I'll be dragging it back to Auckland bursting with such old writing. There are some gems, let me tell you: a detailed description of my Neapolitan host mom as seen through my sixteen-year-old eyes, a copy of a letter sent back home to the first boy I kissed, a short story about my first heartbreak by a teenage mafioso with sampaku eyes.

But it ain't all pretty. There's the dorky poem titled "Washington Roebling and the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge". There's the dialogue-rich story about two washerwomen speaking in what appears to be a Cockney accent. The short story called "Blue (like water)" which begins "There was once a girl with golden hair that lived alone on the beach in a thatch hut that smelled of salt." Stuff I would still burn in the fireplace today if it weren't for the fact that it's far too warm here for a fire.

Besides, it would take all afternoon to incinerate possibly the worst offender, an untitled novella beginning with the ill-boding words "Part I, Chapter I, New York, March 1936". I have no recollection of writing these 145 pages, but judging from the well-linked cursive in blue and black ink (with surprisingly very little crossing out for a first draft), I estimate I was twelve or thirteen when I wrote it. The remarkable thing is that even back then I set the scene, developed the main character (Scarlett Brandon) and used dialogue to drive the plot and build suspense. But it would be dishonest to say that the novel itself is anywhere near good. I will spare you from having to read it all but, somewhat sadistically, I can't help but show you a few passages (with original spelling and punctuation):

p. 1 It was beginning to rain and droplets of water formed on the window, sliding down with ease.

p. 3 [Scarlett's] eyes were large and secret; nobody could see through them, past the adventorous, daring outside into the divine realms of her imagination. Even Taylor didn't understand her when she became moody or pensive, which was not too often.

p. 7 "Just where are we going?" she added after a moment of silence.

"Dinner, my dear," [Taylor] answered.

She stood up straight. "Food? I'll be fat."

p. 36 A few minutes later they were half way through their drink when Scarlett asked to see the entire gardens. [Chase] went up to the waiter. "We'll take this in a doggie bag," he said referring to the drinks.

p. 52 Soon after everyone had left Scarlett and Chase were cleaning up his kitchen. She lifted up a pot and wiped it with a towel and Chase said, "You make great lasagna."

p. 91 Scarlett lay there in her bed, her stomach empty, and being in such an odd mood for an hour she then called Chase but the phone was busy so she sat with the busy signal until Valentino came to the hotel door, looking tall, dark and handsome.

p. 121 Sometimes it was almost too much to bare being with two men, each knowing nothing of one another.

p. 130 She made him feel happy and as he looked into those striking violet eyes that were dimmed so in the soft candlelight, [Valentino] knew that if she didn't decide to stay with him in Italy for a "deeper" affair he'd surely become angry.

p. 142 Glancing over at the fireplace, she saw two tall, silver candlesticks shimming in the moonlight. She shook her head but then smiling reached for one of the heavy candlesticks. With her thin, frail arms she lifted it and struck it down hard on his head. [Valentino] fell lifelessly onto the floor and when she looked back at him, rose colored blood flowed from his head and his staring eyes began to roll up into his head.

Oh, thank goodness that was all just fiction. And I think everyone around me can be grateful I don't write fiction anymore.


  1. I think it sounds interesting, and well written for a 12-year-old! A bit 'grown-up' perhaps?

  2. What is there to discard with a sentence like "You make great lasagna"? It speaks to me (above all, to those extra-kilos I've put on after being fed by my mother, who makes great everything, including lasagna) ;-) I do have those old pieces of writing, too, although I seem to have lost my first attempt of writing a novel at age 12/13. The one about that American family travelling through the States, and which I had to abandon because I wasn't even able to find Mount Rushmore on a map (and didn't have the foggiest what Mount Rushmore was all about; it was pretty pre-internet and pre-wikipedia, google-maps and all; I had only seen photos, had found it fascinating and had wanted to include it in my travel description). I still have some wonderfully obscure philosophical musings somewhere in my stuff, things I've written in my 18s/19s, after having read Wittgensteins 'Tractatus logico-philosophicus' (and having utterly failed to understand the essential last sentence 'The things you cannot talk about, you shall keep silent about'). I've saved many of my early poems, some of which I have translated, edited; corrected, smoothened and improved ever since because the main idea or picture behind them still seemed to work for me.

  3. Dear Sharon, you are too kind: it really is a dreadful piece of writing, mostly because of the topic itself. I don't think I'd even kissed a boy by that age!

  4. Dear Dieter, of course I should have known you've written your whole life. It's only a matter of time then before you are published...wouldn't it be great to celebrate that together (from afar)? So get going on that novel: I'm sure it's more 'accurate' that the Mt Rushmore story. Fingers crossed for us :)