by Hannah Roveto
There is something in the air this week. The mysteries behind what drives some people to not simply put thoughts on paper, but to stretch them like taffy, fill in about them like soil around a seedling, spend hours and days and years listening to voices and cutting beautiful phrases in search of a way to communicate something... somehow... have been uppermost in my mind as well. Amy said most poignantly yesterday that her work is driven by a need to "give people comfort in a world of my making," which is the most perfect description indeed for the outcome of her labors.
Why and how we write is how we make sense of the world. I see absurdity everywhere, and the sharp edge intrigues me. The devoted mother known for lobbying on expensive school programs, who drives around town in her SUV, on her cellphone, at speeds in excess of posted signs along roads where other children walk. The new resident who talks loudly about how excited he is at moving to a small town, yet he puts up a fence and hedge that walls him away from the community he seeks. There are layers to these people I find compelling, in whom I find elements of the humor I so love.
Tragedy informs my writing, in a different way. Private conversations around the most horrific of experiences make me wonder at the human capacity for strength, at how people get up and live their lives the day after, and the day after that. Yet they do. The spirit is an incredible thing, bruised and torn and damaged and yet loving and laughing and hopeful. I may not write about sorrows -- some I simply cannot -- but the idea of this force of life hovers over me.
In the end, I process the world best through humor. It may seem Pollyanna-ish to some, but I would argue that humor is a protective weapon. I admire writers who take the most vital emotions and experiences and create those moments in which we see a bit of ourselves, and that prompt a smile against all that is rational. Mark Haddon's father in A Spot of Bother thinks he has cancer, has an adulterous wife, and is but one of the characters brought together in the slow progress toward a wedding that creates much discomfort. Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down has those four strangers who decide, independently, to end their lives. How can these stories be funny? They are about unbearable things, written with great sympathy, yet it is how they are written that takes us by surprise, against our will, and -- whether or not the character does -- makes us see possibilities.
This is why I write and how I hope and try to write. Capturing moments in which the odd quirk becomes not only a possible downfall, but also the thing that drives us forward. Naming the fears we hide that show themselves despite our best efforts in ways strangers then cannot possibly undertand. Revealing moments of recognition and against all odds, creating a smile of understanding as to where the hope lies.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
by Hannah Roveto