This evening I had the deep privilege of sitting in front of one of my literary heros, Mary Karr (apologies to you who have been reading this blog and having to hear me babble on and on about her over and over again, but I've read all 3 of her books in about a month, so I can't help it), and hearing her and some other folks, including a Twitter hero (is that possible, I guess so) David Carr (@carr2n) talk about their experiences with addiction, recovery and writing.
One of the authors on the panel drove me almost to distraction. I will leave out her name, but her one comment that almost drew some fire from fellow panelists, but didn't because they all have way too much time in recovery. I watched them as a group inhale, breathe out and decide not to say anything - kind of a collective response. If you've spent times in rooms where this is necessary due to the structure that allows people to speak without interruption, you will understand what I mean. She said, basically, that the last 200+ inventions of any use in recent history were "all made by us" (that would be Americans) and that "capitalism and art are a great combination!" (exclamation point hers) At moments like that, I think: (a) you need to get out more - like out of This Country and (b) no wonder everyone else hates us (Americans)! Oh and just for the final idiocy, we were there in Housing Works Cafe, which is there to help people with HIV/AIDS who are/were homeless. She also said - and this didn't surprise me one bit - that "I don't go to meetings anymore" in a tone which implied she didn't need them - hmmm), But OK, she - happily - was the aberration.
Everyone else was great.
I already expected Mary Karr to be great, and happily she did not disappoint. She is as beautiful, funny and direct as her writing would lead you to expect. She is engaged to be married at age 57 (big shiny diamond - I'm not making this up), which means at 48 I'm not dead yet - always good to know. When I handed her the printed out version of an email I had sent her, she was entirely gracious and lovely about it.
More importantly, ehat I learned from her in the panel discussion is yes it's possible to talk about all this stuff honestly without breaking principles of anonymity, yes it's safer to be out there in the world with your story told than keeping secrets and yes (all agreed on this) it's not about 'self-expression' but about telling a story of transformation - not about how horrible someone else was or what happened but how the individual (memoirist or in a novel) overcomes something about her or himself. This is so basic, I don't think I ever considered it, which is embarrassing: the blindingly obvious being quite literally blinding So, I'm glad I could hear that.
Listening to David Carr (a reporter for the New York Times) talking about his memoir, I was astonished at what he went through to do it - asking everyone he knew to basically tell him all the asshole things he did when he was drinking and drugging - treating his own (self described as horrendous) behaviour like a news story and reporting it. The best (most incredible unreliable narrator) story was how he remembered a situation where he had somehow assaulted a friend of his - maybe by accident with a car, I can't remember that part (and I just heard this story an hour ago...so there you go...) and he went to his place and his friend asked him to leave, waving a gun, saying he was too scared of him now. The friend told Carr, yeah that all happened: except you had the gun. Carr was astonished, as he thought he hated guns. Then yet another friend confirmed that he had a Smith & Wesson in his house when he'd helped move him at one point and wondered about why he had a gun. Carr then wrote all this in his memoir entitled, for now obvious reasons The Night of the Gun. Talk about guts. Damn. And he struck me as the most singularly humble person I remember having ever encountered. I know that sounds extreme, but I've honestly never seen it - not in someone who is speaking in public and could be talking about how great it is he has been redeemed or whatever.
His humility made me fall back in love with Mary Karr when she said in response to Carr's off-hand remark that when Bill O'Reilly doesn't like what he says, he'll accuse him of being a crack addict, but that at least that's actually true....and anyway, that's the most interesting part of my life..."Oh bullshit David, that's the least interesting part of you." She meant this in a loving way, and it was gorgeous to see.
I didn't drool in front of anyone, and for that alone I am grateful. I felt I deserved my seat and that I could talk to these folks without fear, which is a new experience. I also rediscovered another obvious thing: I find it easier to talk with people who are clean and sober than drunk and stoned. Shock.
Before that Rik, the director of the reading of We live in financial times, and I had fun working out all the technical stuff for the staged reading this weekend at Brecht Forum. The Occupy Wall Street folks were having their general assembly in the space at 7pm, so we're obviously in the right place. If you haven't been to Brecht Forum, I do recommend checking it out. There seems to be all kinds of good stuff happening there, that is if you like your art and politics radical.
Having said that, let me assure you if you are coming to see the play, it is not agit prop didactic. I believe it's more complex than that - and with any luck will inspire a real conversation between bankers and OWS (who will be part of talk-back after the readings). That is probably wildly optimistic, but is my desire.
It's incredibly cold today, but that kind of makes me feel better - like I'm in the right season. I also love the coat I bought up in Maine, which is like wearing a big comforter (British: duvet). There's nothing quite as satisfying is feeling how cold it is, but being warm.
Yesterday spent the Whole Day aside from a small break for a meeting and about 15 minutes of yoga, sending invites out for the upcoming readings. So, like, if you're reading this and in NYC, please come along! It's gonna be interesting...
OK, now time for yoga and chilling out time...
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.