I just wrote a short essay I submitted to a site that's on my dream wishlist (fingers crossed) and had to describe someone, not in much detail, because, like way too many people swirling around my life, you'd need two words, if not one word, to know exactly who they are, and their precise identity is not actually the point. Still, when you are tasked with only so many words, every one counts. Should I start consorting with more generic types? Anyway, I describe two of his body parts, and that's it, because, ultimately, it's not really about him, but about me, because that's how I roll, I mean, write.
I keep going back to what kinds of descriptions matter, in fiction, but especially in nonfiction. If someone is bald, but to write that would give away their identity, so you make them have hair, are you totally betraying the concept of nonfiction? I don't think I'd ever be good at the composite character, though you never know; they seem to be a staple of almost every memoir I've read. I'd have to think hard to find a memoir without them.
I don't tend to spend overly long on them. Height, weight, hair color, skin color, clothes...I definitely do it more when writing women than men. I think I tend to gloss over it because the things that matter to me are voice, words, soul. Of course looks matter, I'd be lying if I said they didn't, but they aren't what, primarily, makes someone relevant or memorable to me.
So I wrote it and really it's sortof silly, I almost added, "And probably will get rejected," but I won't. It is a little silly, but I paused and wondered what he'd think. Chances are I'd never know so I don't have any qualms about it, but then right afterward, I read a description of me, me by name, no obfuscation necessary. I was going to say I'm not used to that, but that's a lie. I search for mentions of me all the time, in part out of habit, in part out of, sure, vanity. But still, a link or a mention or a quote is different from a physical description, different from a stranger trying to sum you up on first glance. I wonder if I'm easy to sum up, if I want to be. I don't know, but I'm thinking hard about my personal "brand," about how I hate that word but have to live with it and its consequences. I am, in a sense, trying to rebrand, because I'm a little over sex. Both sex, like, doing it, and sex, like, writing about it nonstop. I'm also a little over NYC and my life, but I can't really do anything about those.
My point was...seeing yourself written about is always weird. Disconcerting. Troubling, at times. I know that, and yet I don't think I can avoid writing about other people if I'm going to write about my life, unless I live out my dream to go off to the woods and live solely by internet connection.
So I found this description of me by Pamela Madsen interesting. Lately I keep wishing I could start over, keep wondering if I should, yet again, click delete on this blog and restart it like I did in, what, 2004? A clean slate. How tempting that would be if only it were doable. But it's not, not really, so I just have to make peace with everything that's "out there." The idea that someone could do "research" on me makes me want to vomit, but it is what it is. So anyway, onto Pamela's post (we will both be on the the Dr. Susan Block Show January 29th, and at Coco de Mer in LA February 1st).
was mesmerized by Rachel Kramer Bussel who looked like a young college kid with long unselfconscious hair, glasses and a simple frock – read to us from one of her then newest pieces of erotica. It was so surreal as she was not some overdone bimbo. Rachel was this real woman – writing and talking about real sex……or imaged real sex! And the funny thing was that I had just bought a book edited by her the day before called “He’s on Top”! I had never really heard of her before….such a newbie!