|Jane Rule - April 1991|
Have written a few times about my love for reading the first paragraph on the first page of any book before I decide about buying it.
In this elegant, beautiful, wonderful book, one so good I keep it as my-behind- the-toilet-on-the-tank stellar reading material, there is a killer first paragraph:
Writing an autobiography may be a positive way of taking my own life. Beginning in the dead of winter, mortal with abused lungs and liver, my arthritic bones as incentive for old age, I may be able to learn to value my life as something other than the hard and threateningly pointless journey it has often seemed. I have never been suicidal but often stalled, as I have been now for some months, not just directionless but unconvinced that there is one. No plan for a story or novel can rouse my imagination, which resolutely sleeps, feeding on the fat of summer. And so I take my life, with moral and aesthetic misgivings, simply because there is nothing else to do.
Perhaps because of my constant rereading of it I somehow did not give more than one glance and read of the second:
I remember remembering when I was born. My practical young mother said nobody could. But I did remember dreaming and dreaming and that first waking to the hard light. By the time she read me Mary Poppins, I realized that I, like most people, had forgotten not just my birth but apparently the language of birds, the ability to fly, to walk into the landscape of pictures and to be home among the stars. Just that one sensation remained – the painful brightness. It was not enough to make me into Mary Poppins, but memory became for me the earliest self-discipline I had. I couldn’t, after I learned to write, keep a diary, just as I couldn’t later take notes in lectures. Writing anything down seemed a way of forgetting it. I wanted to memorize my life so that whatever experience taught I would not forget. The difficulty, of course, is that what may seem to be static interference could be instead the very melody of life, the dismissed clutter, the real furniture of the soul. The fear of such loss, even our starkest nightmares, are consolation, for they store and restore to us things we have not chosen to recall.
In jest (and before I read Jane Rule's Taking My Life ) I used to include in some of my bios:
My birth was recorded in a Buenos Aires hospital with the burst of a magnesium flash. I knew then I would some day become a photographer.
I can imagine Jane Rule smiling had I ever told her that.