Monday, April 21, 2008

Read It and Weep

One of my favorite parts of the excellent movie "Romancing the Stone" comes at the very beginning, when Joan Wilder finishes her book and sits weeping happily at her typewriter. "Oh, God, that's good," she sobs.

Years of writing academically, and I've never shed a tear (well, except when I get rejections with nasty peer reviews), but writing my novel ... more tears than I would have expected. I'm not one of those fountain-people who weep habitually at movies and books ("English Patient" being an exception), and yet sometimes I inhabit my narrator, Rachel, so completely that I feel what she feels and break down into sobs. So it's not Joan-Wilder-god-that's-good tears, it's "This is so sad!" tears. It happened as recently as yesterday, when I stole a couple of hours away from essay-grading to work on revisions. I decided to rewrite a key couple of paragraphs in the last chapter, paragraphs whose wording never quite did what I wanted, and then...bam! By now I've done many drafts of the manuscript, so I thought I'd made it past all that, but ... We're not talking about big gasping boo-hoos, we're talking little tears that need a Kleenex.

There's something cathartic about it. I like feeling that deeply about what I'm writing. In scholarly writing, feelings aren't part of the equation: it's all about facts, theories, and footnotes. Forget being dramatic, forget being funny. Be clinical and make your point. Which is a shame when you're an art historian, because isn't the whole point of art to feel something?

Vincent once wrote to Theo: "I want to get to the point where people say of my work, that man feels deeply, that man feels keenly." I hope someday this work of mine will be read, and somebody will say something similar about me.

1 comment:

Catherine Delors said...

Well, Sheramy, I too weep at my own endings. First my eyes get misty, and then I can't hold it anymore. But it feels good when my readers tell me they do the same!

And I think the beginning of "Romancing the Stone" was superb. Maybe the best part of the movie.