Last night I dreamed I had a daughter. She was playing in a park and I needed to find her. The feeling I had was similar to dreams I’ve had of trying to keep my animals safe. In Olga Tokarczuk’s brilliant “Driving the Plough Over the Bones of the Dead,” Mrs Duszejko, the wonderfully odd and philosophical protagonist, refers to her missing dogs as “my little girls.” I had just finished reading the book, so maybe that’s why I had the dream. But also upon waking, I thought of Minnow, my fictional daughter, who was left to ride horses in South America in some future I imagined for her.
I’m in reading mode again, not that it ever stops. But sometimes, I seem to need it more than other times, for both escape and comfort. Inspiration too. I have become increasingly particular about what I need. Wise books by brilliant women. Characters who have seen a thing or two. I’m not interested in coming-of-age tales, or conventional love stories. I want a story of a woman who has been through some things. She is a little cracked as a result but has acquired a unique and independent way of looking at the world. Yesterday, I went to the Corner Bookstore. I knew just what I wanted. Sometimes, I go and browse, but this time I knew: Rachel Cusk’s book of essays, “Coventry,” Deborah Levy’s new novel, “The Man Who Saw Everything,” and Olga Tokarczuk’s first book (in translation), “Flights.” I think I’ll start with the essays. Cusk’s intelligence always satisfies.
As far as writing goes, I am between books. I plan to start another soon, though what it will be about I don’t know. I’ve finished three since the first; they sit here on my computer, mostly unread. I am without an agent now and spend some time each week looking for one. But mostly, I am living my life, walking Gem in the park, reading, cooking for myself. I play the piano or guitar, go for a run with Tracy. The other day at the dog park, a man asked me what I do for work. “I’m either unemployed or retired,” I said cryptically. Of course, neither is true. I continue to work, though the conventional understanding of “work” would not seem to apply when the work is made without reason or compensation. In truth, it is not enough for me either. Work is meant to have a finish line, and to be shared. Well, it seems to be beyond my control for now. Maybe I have had my turn (at worldly success) and I should try harder to accept that that time is finished — accept that my work is incidental to the world as it is now. Ambition is painful. I do try, even as I look for a new agent. I repeat like a mantra: accept what is.
(Painting by Matthew Wong)