I’ve been haunted by insomnia lately. This happens about once a year. I’ll go 3-4 weeks without a good night’s sleep, waking around 2 am for 2-3 hours at a stretch. Some nights I just lie there, rolling the day around in my head, like a bowling ball down an empty alley. Others, I read and heat up a bowl of leftovers. More dramatically, there are nights I scream into a pillow — annoyed I’ll once again stomp through the day with bags under my eyes and splintered patience.
Yesterday, I spent two glorious hours in an auditorium with the author Mary Karr. The event, sponsored by Lighthouse Writer’s Studio, was an interview of the author. Karr is best known for her memoirs and poetry. She is currently writing a TV series based on her life for HBO. (And revealed last night she briefly dated David Foster Wallace. Always fascinating when famous people knew each other when.)
I fell head over heels in love with the profane Texan after her rant on “decorative writing” — that which is fancy to be fancy. She called out specific authors and said The New Yorker is largely to blame. Poems that have secret meanings, for example, are “bullshit.” She took the art of writing and put it in each person’s hands to take home with them, reassuring us that we — as folks who can read and love words — are just as capable of greatness as anyone else. In fact, we might be more likely to produce good work because we aren’t surrounded by fake intellectuals. And when comforting herself during a moment of publishing anxiety, she remembered, “Everyone writes a shitty book.”
To someone who once called her names in a letter, she told of writing the person back and saying, “You are right! I am those things. And guess what? You can’t hurt my feelings. You aren’t the first who has called me that and you won’t be the last.” Oh, the chutzpah!
It was her straight talk. Her basic clothing. Her love of swear words that would embarrass sailors. Her nonchalant aire describing turning down six figure offers for more memoirs because she “just didn’t feel like it right now.” It was her story of growing up in a poor Texan family at the intersection of crazy and drunk.
Her lack of pedigree never slowed her. In truth, it gave her the best material.
Last night I slept 10 hours straight.