Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Belated Valentine to Writing

I once read Stuart Dybek's story, "Pet Milk" over the phone to my boyfriend. According to writer and creative writing professor T.M. McNally, the best stories make a person "feel more than they understand." I love this story because of its feeling.

Its portrait of adolescent longing has resonated since 1986, when it appeared in the O. Henry prize collection. As a kid, I believed love was for the chosen. Guys called me so they could obssess over other women; when I was in high school, people dated, got drunk, lived. I sipped ginger beer and scoured bookstore dumpsters with my male friends, recommending songs for mixes they made for the girls they'd rather be with.

While many revered writers led famously debauched lives, I avoided experience, risk. Love was about longing, not having: the essence of James Joyce's "Araby." When the narrator in Dybek's story says that his post-college plans differed from those of his girlfriend, giving him "the feeling of missing someone I was still with," I knew exactly what he meant.

For a long time, I desired only to be placed This Side Up and handled with care. As the poet Luis Lloréns Torres wrote in "Love Without Love":

When you climb up my mansion,
enter so lightly, that as you enter
the dog of my heart will not bark.

While I now live in Dybek's hometown of Chicago because of my boyfriend, I still struggle to embrace the experience necessary to live a life filled with meaning~ and meaningful writing. What I love about "Pet Milk" and "Araby," is that they affirm that love is as much about giving as receiving. The same is true of writing: the reward is in giving yourself completely. It is because of stories such as "Pet Milk" that I choose this writing life again and again.


Anonymous said...

As with essential Love, we stand naked in a spiritual sense to another, in the disrobing of a lifetime of learned defenses. So too, as a writer, we offer an intimate glimpse of our soul. Our vulnerability is thus exposed to both the good and to the evil. And we do this willingly, motivated by an altruism based on giving being superior to taking.

In this way, both Love and Writing share the same requirements, bear the same risks and offer the same rewards.

Thanking you for this glimpse.

Want Chyi said...

I couldn't have phrased it better myself~ thank you for the lovely comment, Vasilios!