Monday, August 13, 2012

Battleborn, Or Be My Friend, Claire Vaye Watkins

Comparison is the thief of Joy. It's a lesson I've always had to learn the hard way. I'm hard on myself. Always. So I stack myself up against others all the time. I transfer my own judgement of myself onto my dealings with my family-- and make them the people who are disappointed in me, when really I am the one. It's me. I'm comparing me to others. Not them. 

In college, my friend Parisa had this great rule we always tried to follow whenever that feeling crept up on us about other women. Whenever you feel tempted to feel jealous or envious of another girl, you should immediately become their friend. Nothing will kill that jealousy faster than becoming friends. It really works and I've done it a lot. Some of my best friends came from The Parisa Method. 

It's also the inspiration for the series I do on this blog: "Be My Friend, So & So." I've talked about Liz Merriwether, Liz Gilbert, Allie Brosch and others.  So here's a new one in honor of Nevada writer, Claire Vaye Watkins' new collection of short stories, Battleborn

If you know your state mottoes, you'll see right away that these are short stories about our shared (ambivalently felt, in my case; less so, in hers) home state of Nevada. Drifters, wanderers, that washed-out old photo feeling that comes from the place... that's Battleborn. I'm only one story in, but that was pretty much enough. I'm sold. 

She has lots of interesting things to say about writing and the Battleborn State (NV was admitted to Union in 1863 during the height of the Civil War, thus the moniker) on this Granta podcast. The sound is rather low, so crank up that volume.

One of the things I like best about Claire is the free writers workshop she's put together for rural Nevada teens, The Mohave School. It took me a long time to own where I'm from (or at least accept it and love it as one of the places I'm from) but now that I've arrived in that mental state, I'd love to get involved in her endeavors there. The thing I could always say is that there are far more stories in Nevada than anyone would think at first guess. FOR EXAMPLE, in Claire's case, this little teeny tiny bio detail. My most extensive experience with Charles Manson was playing Squeaky Fromme in Assassins where I sang a love duet to him (while John Hinckley Jr. sang to Jodie Foster.)

Perhaps because that song is called "Unworthy of Your Love," that detail feels simultaneously like a joke and also massively significant. I suppose, I think it's interesting to look at the parallels and the diversions between any two people. Like me, Claire was born in California and thereafter moved to Nevada (Pahrump in her case.) Like me, she had an alcoholic mother (she describes her mother as "this incredible dynamo; a great bullshitter.") My father is the opposite of Charlie Manson's right hand man. Unlike me, she stayed in Nevada and went to UNR. We both did postgrad writing programs in places you might not expect.  

Bringing this back home to the beginning of this post, and in my continued effort to get really seriously real with myself and you on this blog,  I suppose I want to say this. (In addition to "Be My Friend, Claire Vaye Watkins.)

I want to say that Claire is two years younger than me and has been published in all manner of places I envy. The Paris Review. Granta. She gets compared to Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx and Joan Didion. My teeth hurt, I am so envious. But here's my confession: I don't even send my stories out anymore. I have been propped up and pared down so many times now, I don't know what to think. I don't send any fiction out into the world, save on this blog. I both know and don't know why that is at the moment. I have been hoarding. I have been waiting for people to ask. And when people finally ask-- and mean it; not just as a courtesy-- it feels like my heart is going to explode. I cry on the spot. 

I am trying to work through this unworthiness I feel-- with my family and with myself. And in the odd manner in which I choose and sometimes choose not to share my work with others. 

All photos from the author's (really beautiful) website

1 comment:

  1. I picked up this book this weekend and am four stories in. Each story breaks my heart a little bit and I need to take a significant break in between each one. Perhaps its the Nevada connection, but I think this book is a treasure. Interesting that this book found its way to both of us somehow. Hope you are well, lady.


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