Friday, March 28, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Last night, David and I braved a raging ice storm to get downtown to the Ohio Theater to finally hear and meet Joyce Carol Oates, the subject of my 1988 Masters Thesis. Clutching my old (typewritten) thesis under my coat, we raced across Euclid Avenue through pelting ice to hear her remarks titled "The Writer's (Secret) Life - Woundedness, Rejection and Inspiration". She covered the literary landscape from Emily Dickinson to Ernest Hemingway, from the Bronte sisters and Samuel Beckett to Thoreau. She even threw in a digression about Mike Tyson, through which her voice became especially animated. After highlighting stories about various authors' rejections and psychological health, she summed up by saying we must rely on our own judgment and sense of self-worth. Although she was chatty with the few from the audience who asked questions, she did not personalize the books she signed afterward. I took my thesis, which she signed with comment or interest. Although we wanted to take a picture with her, she was afraid of being blinded by the camera's flash. She is frail up close and looks a bit like Emily Dickinson. My number of idols to meet in person is diminished by one.
A few weeks ago, David and I were walking through the Joseph Beth Bookstore in Cleveland where Bohjalian was reading at the mike from this novel. I overheard someone ask a question about The Great Gatsby, which made me pick up a copy of the book from the piles about to be signed by the author and read the dust jacket blurb. The Double Bind weaves characters and events from Fitzgerald's novel with Bohjalian's story, which centers around a box of old black and white photographs taken by Bohjalian's character Bobby Crocker. Bobby winds up at a homeless shelter where one of the workers, Laurel Estabrook, herself a survivor of a brutal attack, takes an interest in the pictures. Since I am teaching Gatsby right not to my juniors, I bought the book and, thanks to the day off so voters could roam our school on Ohio primary day yesterday, I read most of it in one sitting. I was stunned by its intricacy and depth. I don't want to give anything away but I was totally taken by the "double bind" of the novel itself. I can't stop thinking about it, and just might try to find a way to use it with my students as a follow up to Fitzgerald.