We talked in a Monday workshop session about putting fictional things into memoir to get at matters we cannot remember. And we talked about even putting in someone else's supposedly more accurate versions.
I hit the ceiling at the very idea of an artist so distorting, which to me means the artist bringing comfort to the begrudgers.
But regarding my story about Rock Pool, there is a question about the disparaging comments by summer gang members the day the Bohemian crafts people appeared. Did I make up those comments, the way I made up the their names? Did I see at the time they were as limited by place and blood and measured aspiration as their reactionary forebears? Why is depression, of which I have been mostly free for 20 years, returning?
I posted the Rock Pool story on my writing blog before the Monday night workshop session – where by pure coincidence I wanted to open with Jay's thoughts about how when there was a place he did want to go in his writing he found himself trying to bring in fiction. It was predictable that I would be adamant about not going into fiction – about sticking to the author’s impression ( as the McCourts say) of what happened as being the only valid truth for the author.
Was it because I stuck to the truth, my impression of what was said by members of this gang of young people, this gang which was the first group to which I felt I truly belonged. What I had just done in writing about Rock Pool was intended to bolster my impression that my peers would become like their elders. Had I had that impression on that day 50 years back that I just wrote about? Had I denied what I saw and felt?
Had I for 50 years edited the words out because what these peers said did not fit with my picture of those summers as being a sacred time, whatever my overall impression, in retrospect, of the White Mountains summer communities? And I began to think about other times, as at Princeton, of listening to people's bigotry and, worse, trying to edit it out.
The depression was a delayed reaction to my having written. It was at its worse on the Saturday after I wrote about Rock Poole. Marta had a morning workshop that I was not involved with that day. I put in ear plugs and went up to my computer for what I thought would be a fine day of writing. But it was as bad as all the times in the past, the times before I got onto my own story in any valid way by facing up to the fact that I had indeed once been a child. Those depression years, but then a plunge into the past I had ignored, and then the past 20 years in which I was virtually free of the hopelessness and fear that had dogged me.
And so on that Saturday morning upstairs at my computer, while Marta and her group were writing downstairs, I could not write. And it was chilly outside. And the depression had not lifted.
That evening we went to the Colony to hear a concert by a new friend and associate, Bar Scott. In one segment she played the piano while being her as bird photographs that made me want to cry flashed on a screen. The picture were taken by her husband Peter Schoenberger, whom I had known in passing for nearly two decades. These photos so close up in spirit and reality as to partake of revelation. And even while moved by the music and the birds I was still sunk in this surprising, paralyzing depression.
To my right at the Colony was my great love in the present, Marta Szabo, and we were holding hands. To my left was a new friend, Polly Howells, whose grandmother was Abby Howells, who used to talk about her best friend, my grandmother Margaret Poole, who talked the same way about Abby Howells. And strangely I had never met Abby Howells and Polly never met Margaret Poole. Though they were such big figures in a careful past world of supposed privilege that Polly and I both write about now.
This depression. The remaining power of the past.