You’re so used to this kind of smoothness in writing, this feeling that you, the reader, or you, the writer, are this great empathic, wondrous soul. I would love to be that, but of course when we see the way we behave in the world really to other people, we’re confronted with a different version of who we are. Not just this wonderful, tolerant, broad person who sees humanity and everything, but someone a little more narrow, self-defended, sometimes cruel, sometimes selfish. I wanted to try and show that. And also, someone who—people who live in a city, who are able to switch off these famous values of empathy and tolerance and love quite suddenly when you need to. Or if you need to. I wanted to be honest about that experience, but it’s not something you want reflected back at you perhaps, it’s not a pleasure. But reading can be many things: sometimes it can be a pleasure, sometimes it’s a bit tougher. It’s a broad church that way.
Showing posts tagged The Rumpus
I wrote letters to friends and family from the PCT [Pacific Crest Trail], but I didn’t even attempt to gather them and mine them for information as I wrote Wild. I didn’t because I sensed on a gut level that they’d be of little use to me. In my letters, I’d been trying to make an impression. I wanted to seem strong or funny or impressive, to offer evidence that I was now more together than the sort-of-falling-apart woman many of them thought I was before I set out on my hike. I wanted to seem transformed and heroic to those I wrote to. I know without reading them, my letters were hyperbolic and embellished, covertly self-aggrandizing and embarrassingly philosophical.
But my journal is none of these things. In it, I told myself the truth. Every last inch of whatever the truth might be. I didn’t attempt to cast anything in either a better or worse light. On those pages not meant for anyone’s eyes but my own I did what every memoirist must do years before I knew I’d ever become a memoirist: I gave myself a long level gaze. It was from that place I set about writing Wild.
Books, like all art, breed in us desire. In times of crisis and fear and misrepresentation we need desire, or else we shut down and hide out in our houses, succumbing to infotainment and the ease of an available latte, turning off our brains and emotions. Books breed desire.