I'm cautiously peeking out at this world without antibiotics. I had a cup of coffee with breakfast. So far so good. This may well be the first day in two weeks I'm not sick. It's a little hard to tell since a lot of what I guess are the after-effects of ciprofloxacin seem like they could be related to uti--abdominal cramps, shooting pains in the sides of the lower abdomen. But I remember these from last time, and my doctor didn't seem at all concerned then. Though I will say my abdomen has simply never felt the same since the first time I took cipro. I used to like to sit crossed legged on the ground or on a chair, but now I can't do that for long periods without getting light-headed.
Of course, I'm also feeling symptoms that may be from skipping the crunches I usually do every morning as you're not supposed to exercise with cipro, apparently having something to do with inhibited growth of muscle tissue. When I go without crunches, my belly tends to feel like a windsock.
I read most of the new Sirenia Digest with breakfast to-day. Instead of a new story or vignette, it was the first chapter from Caitlin's upcoming novel, The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. I probably won't ever read the whole book, as I doubt I could bring myself to while I'm still banned from Caitlin's journal--I feel weird enough reading the Digest--and that's probably at least partially contingent on Sonya speaking to me again, which isn't likely to happen in twenty lifetimes. But it was a good first chapter, written mostly in first person narrative that switches sometimes without changes in quotation marks for brief moments to third person. This isn't as jarring as one might think and in fact creates a rather fluid narrative.
Most of the first portion of the chapter, in fact, is devoted to a discussion of storytelling philosophy. Partly I think this is still Caitlin dealing with her relatively newfound propensity to tell stories in the first person after years of a professed dislike for the mode*. But also it seems to me something characteristic of a lot of writers at roughly the same stage of career--that is, a compulsion to write about one's craft. It reminds me of how David Lynch's last two movies have been about Hollywood--it's natural that these artists should be interested in making art about these things in the interest of drawing on their own experiences, or rather, dealing with the issues closest to hand. This has the unfortunate effect of limiting the audience somewhat, as I think the casual reader, who has no serious interest in the mechanisms and realities of artistic endeavours are put off by having their latent naive prejudices challenged. I remember once talking to a family member about the prospect of becoming a professional writer. Seeming doubtful about my commitment to the career, he told me, as though it were incumbent on decisions I'd made, "Of course, we'd love to see you on Oprah." This indicated a whole web of preconceived ideas about what success means as a writer that I didn't even begin to know how to untangle.
Anyway, I count myself fortunate, rather than clever, for not desiring to make my fiction about my fiction yet. I'm not sure Caitlin, or most artists, have much real choice when it comes to their muses.
The chapter also dealt with the recurrent theme throughout nearly all Caitlin's work of a character trying to convey, and feeling a resentment for not being able to inspire an appreciation for, the effects of a very serious, solemn, fantastic or dreadful experience. This seems to be the nature of the perpetual "ghost" Caitlin's work continually returns to, and thinking about the recurrent obsessions of my own work, I realised I'm more concerned with characters dealing with the impossibility of receiving forgiveness for something they've done. As I was thinking this, Caitlin actually brought up the issue in the form of unintentional lies causing harm, lies germinated by the unreliability of memory. Of course, she seemed to present this as being a relatively insignificant fact of life, which made me smile.
A lot of the chapter, too, discussed the nature of the insanity the narrator perceived in herself, and the potential unreliability of the narrative. I was immediately reminded of a portion of The Idiot I read a few nights ago where Hippolite, a young man dying of consumption, decides to read aloud late at night to a party of his drunken friends a "last conviction," a statement he's written. In the second paragraph, where he still seems to be relaying the purpose of the statement, Hippolite says of the statement;
Since there will not be a single word of falsehood in it, but only the truth, the final and solemn truth, I am curious to know what impression it will make on me, at the hour and the very minute I'll be reading it over. However, I should not have written the words 'final and solemn truth'; it's not worth telling lies for two weeks, because it's not worth living two weeks; that's the best proof that I shall write nothing but the truth. (N.B. Not to forget the thought: am I not mad at this moment; that is, at certain moments? I was told positively that in the last stage of their illness consumptives sometimes go out of their minds for a time. Must check this to-morrow at the reading, by the effect on the audience. Must settle this question with the utmost precision; otherwise I can undertake nothing.)
He goes on to relate a story of an act of charity he undertook and a discussion on the nature of charity before discussing a painting in the home of another of The Idiot's characters, Rogozhin, of Christ on the cross that was atypically raw, that seemed to convey to Hippolite an impression of death unconquerable by Christ. The statement ended with Hippolite's expressed intention to commit suicide by shooting himself. When the statement's concluded, half the people in the room ignore the statement as the bluster of an adolescent, while the other half, including Prince Myshkin, the titular idiot, take Hippolite's expressed desire to commit suicide seriously. When Hippolite does attempt to shoot himself, he fails due to a missing firing pin, and there's some discussion as to whether he really meant to commit suicide at all.
This whole scene is followed by, and is, in my opinion, wonderfully juxtaposed with, a scene where Myshkin is awakened the next morning on a park bench by Aglaya, one of the two central female characters of the story. The other, Nastassya Filipovna, hasn't even been mentioned by name since around the book's halfway point--this scene takes place around three fourths in. Yet Filipovna's existence exerts a palpable influence over everything that happens and all the characters. In talking about Hippolite's suicide attempt with Aglaya, the prince concedes it was, of course, a ploy to inspire admiration in the others, but the prince adds that this desire for love is not something he looks down on Hippolite for. Aglaya observes, wisely, in the prince's later opinion; "I find all this very wrong, because it is very crude to look into a man's soul that way and judge him as you judge Hippolite. You have no tenderness; nothing but truth and so you are unfair."
*Jeez, I'm remembering English words a lot better without the antibiotics.