Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I open up any Alice Miller book, anywhere, I can never read her page after page, but it works well to open up one of her books and read a few paragraphs at random. I feel immediately in good company. I haven't had this exact experience before with a writer.

Alice Miller writes about the abuses that every child experiences in one form or another. She doesn't try to reduce their importance, but to pay a great deal of attention to them. She writes as a professional observer, but imbues her prose with empathy. You know, as you read, that she is seeking to know for her own sake.

Her writing invites me to think beyond the safe fields I've been staying inside until now. Several months ago when I was hit by a strong depression that seemed to come out of nowhere It was her books that provided the first comfort, not because they had any rosy aphorisms in them, but I think partially at least because what she writes about is mysteriously relevant to me right now and provides some kind of needed release. She paints a new landscape of possibility and I step into it as easily as if I already lived there but didn't know it.

I went to see a therapist about it, but he didn't seem too interested in these things, as if, yes, of course, talk about them if you want to but I don't think you'll get very far. He wanted to press on my meridians and open up the blocked channels, and when he pressed they did feel blocked but afterwards I realized slowly that I wanted to be with someone who was interested in those landscapes I had started to discover. There seems to be something very important for me there, something so taboo that the moment I have an excuse to drop it I do, like being with a friendly professional with a good rep who doesn't see much point in it, who makes me feel like an overly verbal intellectual.

It's a weak spot of mine. I've been accused of being too much in my head and it always sounds right. I'm touchy about it. But you know, I think I'm onto something and I'm going to keep at it. Somehow. I hope. I'll open up an Alice Miller book and see what happens.

For the last few years I didn't buy books. I didn't think I could afford to and by most reckonings I couldn't. I don't make New Years resolutions but one came to me spontaneously this year. Fuck it, I was going to buy books again – not second-hand ones over the internet, but a brand new one now and then.

I looked through titles for half an hour in our little local bookstore, an independent survivor, before finding the one I wanted. I didn't look too closely, just enough to sense its possibilities. It was a memoir called LISTEN.

At home, the first three pages were perfect, all written in her mother's voice as heard by the narrator. I read this book slowly. Usually, when I find a book I like I gobble it up greedily even as I know that the faster I read the sooner it will be over and I'll be book-less again. This one I savored, shutting it every few pages. Partially because the writing was not so facile that it slid down that easy, it was intense writing, serious – all of it first person, all of it telling while exploring a real story.

It becomes a story about a father and a daughter. And incest plays in the background. It's not center stage. You could even miss it if you wanted to.

When I finish I write her an email, saying how much I liked her book and why. And then about my own tentative steps into uncovering incest in my own life. I sign off and put at the end my blog address with the implication that if she wants to she can check it out.

I don't hear back from her.

"Bitch," I say to Fred. To make him laugh.

While cleaning out my spam yesterday I catch sight of her name. Quickly, I fish out her email and see it was written the day after I sent mine. She is appreciative, has read my blog, says I gave her some ideas she hadn't thought of.

I forward the note to Fred and don't think about it too much. Hours later Fred comes in. "Boy, you really connected with that woman!" he says. "Did you see what she said?" I have rarely seen him so excited.

Once again, I guess, I have overlooked something, made it smaller than it is.

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