Her Favorite Critics

She checked out Wuthering Heights from the library because she just couldn’t make herself labor through trying to read Jane Austen any longer. For all the hoopla so many make about her, she really wishes she could make herself — read some of it — but it just isn’t in her good sense and sensibilities to bother with. She typed in to her browser, “why do people like Jane Austen so much” and the only thing that made any sense was a comment following a raving post about her that said “if she was writing in these times, she would be writing for General Hospital.” It wasn’t that she even got that much out of whatever she was able to read because all she got out of it was a similarly draining convoluted narrative like reading the book of Genesis in the Bible — just too many begets — begets for Jane being all the convoluted lines of relations of who knows who knows who or which of them might be married or intended or hopefully intended and far too many words in that doing — no economy whatsoever it seemed — seeming to take forever to get to any weight. Now, the Bronte sisters, they look a little more promising — at least the introduction by Charlotte in the second edition of the publication of Emily’s book where she is disclosing how the publishing of it came about in the first place — even that was more compelling than Jane Austen. 

So, what she figured by the popularity of Jane and the comment revealing what she might have discovered if she’d been able to endure, people want common. They want General Hospital or a romance novel like what they might find at a checkout counter before boarding a plane — most people — and any that don’t are rarer to find and certainly probably not sufficient to make a living on and why so many might write things that are common.

“I watched a movie about Jackson Pollack and you know what? When he finally got to a point in his tortured life of painting where others thought, ‘now there’s an artist’, he didn’t want to paint anymore because everybody from that point on wanted him to spit them out like he was a machine or something. The doing lost all of its value and any meaning for him as an artist.”

She had just read something she’d written to one of her favorite critics — a friend, an old boyfriend, who wrote a story with her once upon a time. Actually he wrote it and she expanded upon it because he gave up to easily, letting the story of a little Christmas tree end by the poor little tree lying in a ditch somewhere. She had wanted the little Christmas tree to have a better ending than that so took what he had written and enlarged upon it — taking the little tree to a recycling facility and back up to his forest family and friends. He loved what she wrote — not quite at first because at first it hurt his feelings some — and that silly little story became their child, something that kept them together, at least on a string, for many years thereafter, even until now — “When are you ever going to finish The Little Christmas Tree and send it off to a publisher?” he’d ask on just about every occasion he used it as an excuse to call her.

Anyway, he loved the way she wrote even when he couldn’t understand the meaning, so she decided to read Floating Dress Dancing to him to see what his reaction was since not one single person bothered to read it and it had been like a Jackson Pollock moment to her — a moment when you finally get something out of yourself that you’ve wanted to get out and it comes out just the way you want it to and even though you love it, no one else gets it. He didn’t get it either but still said he loved the way it sounded. “There’s something in there and I want to know. And even though I don’t understand it, I love the way it sounds and the way the words make you think about other things.” That was enough — actually what she wanted. She told him the story behind it. He understood it more but what she really wanted was for him to understand why no one getting it or liking it should matter anyway.

“You know how you love to sing and would be a singer writing and singing music if you could make yourself do the difficult work of pushing through the artistic barriers but you don’t care if anyone hears it or not, you just have to do it because it is a thing inside you wanting out? Well, that was Jackson Pollock but he pushed through the barriers and arrived to where he saw a thing and knew that it was good. I want to push through those barriers,” she said and hoped she could whether anyone ever got her or not. She just wanted to know that she could do it — get to a place where the getting to is felt in all it’s magical measure. She was hoping though that the getting there wouldn’t have her wanting to end it all like Jackson Pollock did.

“Yeah, I understand,” he said. “Do you want me to sing the latest things I’ve written?” he asked.

She let him sing — over the phone.

“You’re my pillar,” he said. “You’ll always be my pillar. Do you know what I mean when I say that you are my pillar?” He went on to explain. They were still connected by some kind of string but The Little Christmas Tree still wasn’t published. Maybe it never would be.

Wuthering Heights




Shape Of Legs

Words get batted around all night trying to hit a home run story by morning. It’s not intentional anymore than it is essential — there is nothing available to thwart the pitcher, catcher or batter — and as one of the great analyzers of thought once said, “one is everyone in their dreams” — so there is a conspiracy going on and it actually goes on during the day as well as night — especially if the morning arrives before the hit.


She could still see the original shape of her baby legs under the extra layer of age and cells — fat or other skinny kinds of cells that simply come with age and change the shapes of things.

Some things just can’t be hidden.

“One of the first things I looked at when you girls were born,” her mother had said early on in her life, “was whether or not you had ankles. I looked at your noses and your ankles.”

Fingers and toes, they must have been a given.

Baby legs are cute no matter how they look or whether or not they have ankles. Baby anything is cute but it is possible to tell how a thing might turn out in the long run, so her mother was checking that her babies didn’t have any of her own self-determined defects. It was all in their best interest.

What ever was the shape of legs to mean to the rest of her life, only her mother knew at her birth but would go on to explain in countless subliminal and obvious ways as would the rest of the world.

“Does she have big thighs?”

John: Did you hear, someone moved into the old Klickner place? A woman.
Grandpa: A woman?
John: Yeah.
Grandpa: Did you mount her?
John: Ohhh, Dad!
Grandpa: Well the woman, does she have big thighs?
John: No!
Grandpa: No?! Then what’s the problem? If I was a young fella like you, I’d be mounting every woman in Wabasha.

— 1993 Grumpy Old Men

When she heard those words in the movie they drudged up some that had long ago been logged in memory for future reference: Best to not have big thighs.

According to the movie, at least, if you ever wanted to be mounted — but by the sound of things it would be better to not have big thighs at all — if you did, you’d better go into some kind of hiding.

There’s no getting around it, there is no way to be perfect, and it should be made a crime to start a baby out thinking it could ever come to be some imaginary thing a mother thinks it should be.

She woke up thinking about her baby legs but also about Jackson Pollock because right before she went to bed, with her not so baby legs stretched out in front of her, she watched a movie about his life — so by morning she wanted to know some more about him.

When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.  —Jackson Pollock, My Painting, 1956

Getting in the zone — she thinks of the drafts piling up in virtual space. Sometimes it just can’t be gotten to but later parts can be copied and pasted and a masterpiece can be created. It feels like a masterpiece when the zone has been gotten to — whatever anyone else might think.

So in the movie, someone said, “something’s missing, something’s not there.” When they finally started saying, “Wow, that’s it. That’s Art.” Jackson Pollack fell apart. They expected him to keep producing like he was a machine or something.

“What a shame it seems to be that artists need money,” she thinks.

There is no way of knowing, because she was only seeing it in a movie that was how someone else was seeing how Jackson Pollock had been and even though it was based on lots of archival documents, interviews and even another movie of the actual him being filmed while painting, it wasn’t 100% possible to know for sure, but it appeared that his mother had been quit important to how he saw himself. It was probably highly unlikely that it had anything to do with the shape of his legs — whether or not his thighs were big or if he had any ankles — but nonetheless, his mother’s glares and disapproval had been depicted as an influence to how he felt about himself — and not a positive one.

There are so many things that can interfere with keeping a thing from coming through.

Are there any artists that aren’t tormented? Poor Jackson and his poor wife — they had bigger things than his mother to overcome — but in the end what beauty they each made and what he personally likely only could have made because of the influence of his wife. She can keep that to her credit.

“To live is to struggle.” ~ Rene Dubos

Today when she woke up after batting things around in dreams and semi-conscious streams of waking thought she started the day off wondering, “Will this be the day that I don’t bother?” The movie about Jackson Pollack was interfering now. “How does anyone get that good!?” And he had far more than three strikes coming against him.

Jackson Pollock didn’t think Jackson Pollock could be that good until Jackson Pollock was — up to then he was only guessing but he never stopped believing.

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” ― Sigmund Freud

Her own mother had a mother who had a mother who likely said things that made her children feel badly about themselves. Just can’t let things like that keep the truth of what one really is from coming through. Bat, hit, take whatever shape of legs you have to make that run for home. The only strikes against one are the ones one thinks they own.

She’d like to own a Jackson Pollock painting but decides she’d better settle for painting the shape of her legs which she has come by far to terms with.