Thursday, June 27, 2019

writers and truth and Eleanor Wachtel's Books on Film

An amazing home class tonight, five of us sitting outside with cheese and wine, reading and telling our deepest truths. How privileged I feel to host encounters of such depth. This time, as well as listening to theirs, I told and read mine and received valuable feedback. What an endless journey it is to be a writer. I joke to my students that if they think the Nobel prize-winning Alice Munro says, yawning, " I think I'll toss off another story," they don't understand the business; that it's never easy, even for Alice Munro. Maybe especially for Alice Munro.

Not back to the drawing board for me, but work to be done. I read a memoir scene from my profligate youth, when I was living in a house with cocaine dealers and sleeping with the dealer across the hall, and what my listeners wanted was - more sex. More grit. I had to say, I don't remember! But that's the job. Unpack. Go back. Even to that not very pleasant time, the memory that makes me wince - go back and bring it to the light. Make them see and hear and feel it.


Well, not right now, anyway, it's after 10 and I'm sleepy. Time to go to bed and pick up Middlemarch, which is fabulous but a long slow read.

Yesterday, the smallest class I've ever had - two students at Ryerson, two brave souls who read and we discussed and then went home early. I'll give them extra time next week, when a few more will be there. It's hard to be in a classroom in summer, and it's definitely high summer here - 30 degrees today, feeling like 36.

On Monday, Eleanor Wachtel invited me to be her guest at the Writers on Film series at TIFF, for a film, Lore, based on a book called The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert. It's the kind of gruelling film I would never have seen if not invited by a dear friend, about five very young German children after the war forced to travel through a ruined country to safety. It was an excellent film, really about how Germans continued to deny what their country had done until the facts made it impossible to deny any more, and afterwards, the discussion between Eleanor and Seiffert was of course fascinating. The book is based on her German mother's story, and she told us about her mother's parents who were fervent Nazis. The evening ended with a very gloomy diagnosis of today, the rise of the far right and fascism; Sieffert said she felt we are in a version of the thirties. Very scary.

But at the same time, uplifting, because wise writers are making sense of it all with art. Going to the uncomfortable places, because that's the job.

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