Liberation from Revelation
When I finally figured out the handiness of my Twitter App, I discovered a list of the day’s tweets by a collection of souls and entities I have chosen to follow, over the past several years at various stages of personal morph. It’s an odd but telling mix. Today, The New Yorker tweeted “The awkward fact is that writing saved St. Aubyn’s life” and it caught my attention. It did because I am a writer and sometimes I feel I write to save my sanity. I didn’t know St. Aubyn, nor his books or troubled life. It was from the The New Yorker archives on Literary Lives. Tweets are supposed to be tiny bites – interesting bon mots. So I clicked on the article for the moment between my morning lemon juice and olive leaf tea, steeping, before I began my day’s writing.
Nearly an hour later, cold tea by my side, I was still thumbing up the pages on my iPad. The article itself by Ian Parker was brilliantly crafted like a novel that held me spellbound, reading on. And within that package was the parcel of the author Edward St. Aubyn himself and his traumatic start in life, victim of a cruel and sadistic father and ineffective heiress mother, in a gentrified upper class England that would tend to muffle sympathy wrapped in the arms of wealth and luxury.
Like most authors with the uncertainty of what is right or might be appreciated, [St. Aubyn] began to write about what he knew.
After a youth of heroin addiction and suicidal tendencies, St. Aubyn began to write. Like most authors with the uncertainty of what is right or might be appreciated, he began to write about what he knew. And in a trilogy of novels, outed his father and highlighted his mother’s insistence that she couldn’t possibly know what he had endured. He shared the depths of addiction that he played like Russian roulette with a drawer full of pills, never knowing if the blindly grasped combination would kill him or not. Then the final decision to write or die. He has written eight novels, including “Mother’s Milk” nominated for the 2006 Man Booker Prize.
In the interview when queried about repressed drives, St. Aubyn shares this: “I think trauma, during the period of our lives we can remember, doesn’t lead to repression. I never understood that theory. It leads to splitting and fragmentation. I never had any trouble remembering what were the most outstandingly violent and life-threatening events in my childhood. Why would you?”
And after that he said, “The revelation was in the process of writing. The liberation came from the revelation, which came from the writing. It was happening in real time.” Evidently he wrote wrapped in towels literally sweating out the truth.
Before I had finished the article I was trying to locate a member of a writing group I am in. This man had shared such horrendous stories of abuse by his father, relief at his suicide and the surmise that if he hadn’t killed himself, his son might gladly have helped him out of his torment. Reluctantly at first, and then with greater assurance of a private and supportive group, he let the first cathartic snakes out of his belly. In time, his writing while sharing horrors, was sympathetic and gentle to the child he was and the part of him that remains the child to be more protectively parented by the adult self. He may have shocked himself and may be somewhere now integrating what his soul offered him for healing. At any rate he was gone from Facebook. I couldn’t find him. I wish I could.
I had embraced my fragmented self and I thought I had put myself back together in a more synthesized version.
But the message I realize is not just for the traumatically imperiled, but for us all. I know when I was writing my own book, “Exhilarated Life – Happiness Ever After” I balked at the thought of sharing my personal pains. I had embraced my fragmented self and I thought I had put myself back together in a more synthesized version. I understood the nature and effect of the startling happenings in my life. I didn’t want to embarrass myself or invoke harsh judgment by my openness.
St. Aubyn’s books “have been hailed as a powerful exploration of how emotional health can be carved out of childhood adversity”
What I was to learn though was that for any work to be authentic and, in its authenticity, in service to potential readers, the writer has to be honest and courageous. That doesn’t mean to bleed all over the page in an exposé of suffering, but rather to share with the intimacy that respects both reader and writer. Truth is subjective and the only way I found I could write honestly was to tell my own truth and its effects and leave the rest of the cast both dead and alive out of it. Scrupulously honest writing with the absence of judgment invites a clarity that can shine a light on anyone’s darker paths, writer or reader, fiction or nonfiction.
According to the impeccable source, Wikipedia, St. Aubyn’s books “have been hailed as a powerful exploration of how emotional health can be carved out of childhood adversity” (James, OW, 2013, How to Achieve Emotional Health, London: Vermilion). St. Aubyn’s style may be described as ironic, snobbish and in the case of his last book “Lost for Words”, satyric, but whatever way a writer brings truth to light, honest writing sets us all free.
Love like there is no tomorrow!
For the full and most fascinating New Yorker article by Ian Parker “The Real Life of Edward St. Aubyn” click here!