From Beautiful World, Where Are You

When I was younger, I think what I wanted was to travel the world, to lead a glamorous life, to be celebrated for my work, to marry a great intellectual, to reject everything I had been raised with, to cut myself off from the narrow world. I feel very embarrassed by all that now, but I was lonely and unhappy, and I didn’t understand that these feelings were ordinary, that there was nothing singular about my loneliness, my unhappiness. Maybe if I had understood that, as I think I do now, at least a little bit, I would never have written those books, I would never have become this person. I don’t know. I know that I couldn’t write them again, or feel the way I felt about myself at that time. It was important to me then to prove that I was a special person. And in my attempt to prove it, I made it true.

Looking back now on the period when I wrote the books, I feel like it was a good time in my life, because I had work I needed to do, and I did it. I was perennially broke, and lonely, and anxious about money, but I also had this other thing, this part of my life which was secret and protected, and my thoughts returned to it all the time, and my feelings orbited around it, and it belonged to me completely. In a way it was like a love affair, or an infatuation, except that it only involved myself and it was all within my own control. (The opposite of a love affair, then.) For all the frustration and difficulty of writing a novel, I knew from the beginning of the process that I had been given something very important, a special gift, a blessing.

It was like God had put his hand on my head and filled me with the most intense desire I had ever felt, not desire for another person, but desire to bring something into being that had never existed before. When I look back at those years, I feel touched and almost pained by the simplicity of the life I was living, because I knew what I had to do, and I did it, that was all.

It’s funny, because you carry on like you’d let me walk all over you, answering my texts at two in the morning, and then telling me you’re in love with me, blah blah blah. But that’s all your way of saying, just try and catch me, because you won’t. And I can see I won’t. You’re not going to let me have it for a minute. Nine times out of ten you’d have someone fooled with the way you go on. They’d be delighted with themselves, thinking they were really the boss of you. Yeah, yeah, but I’m not an idiot. You’re only letting me act badly because it puts you above me, and that’s where you like to be. Above, above. And I don’t take it personally, by the way, I don’t think you’d let anyone near you. Actually, I respect it. You’re looking out for yourself, and I’m sure you have your reasons.