Friday, January 21, 2022

notes on the writer's life and afterlife

Noteable in this week's writing projects was a piece on Katherine Mansfield, a couple of whose short stories I've read in the past just randomly (and maybe once in undergrad?) but whose biography I was unfamiliar with. She had a pretty short life--perishing of some terrible thing called "pulmonary tuberculosis" which sounds worse than even just the regular sort of tuberculosis, but it took her life at only 34. She was apparently tangentially a member of the Bloomsbury group, and Woolf published and praised her short fiction (and maybe, according to some, envied her for it.)

What struck me as I did my research was how detailed even her wikipedia entry was--in such a short life, we knew who she slept with (both men and women), who impregnated her before a miscarriage.  Who she had unrequited crushes on.  Who she wound up marrying--two men--first one significantly older than her, the next a tempestuous on and off again with an editor, John Middleton Murry. I realized as I dug deeper, all thin intel is available because of her letters and journals, all of which are freely available and published, along with her posthumous collections and a book of poems, courtesy of Murry (one good aspect to a man who seemed to get a lot wrong in their relationship, including her initially winding up in a pauper's grave because he didn't pay the funeral bill.) 

As I mentioned in regard to Dickinson and Gentilischi, there is much of her personal life to dig through, thought at least here, she is mentioned as a innovator of modernism first and not for those, sometimes salacious, details of her life.  The info, through various sources, was split evenly between life and craft. When I was an undergrad, I loved reading Plath's journals and letters almost as much as I loved reading the work, and what she conveyed told me a lot about how to be a writer. And of course, Plath is all out there--I sometimes think about how the historians and the biographers construct a life from other things--letters, journals, first hand accounts, etc.  Maybe the work, though I don't think it's always as telling.  Or what we say about ourselves when asked.  I've finally gotten to the point as a creative where I don't mind writing bios for things, but it wasn't always easy.  With social media, it's all out there I guess. Or at least a version of it is.  

I imagine if anyone gives a hoot about my work in 100 years, who knows what they will know? This blog offers a good place to start, but there are certainly things I don't talk about directly here. Things even people closest to me know only bits and pieces of.  Things that are not necessarily private, but just don't seem that interesting to a general audience.  Exes and  mental health struggles and just things that seem unimportant right now that may matter greatly in the context of work. (again, I fully suspect to be completely forgotten, but it'd be nice if not.) And well, with climate change, who knows if anyone will be around to even read my tiny little biography on wikipedia if it existed?

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