Monday, May 19, 2008

My Dream Of You

This is the title of one of the Matron's all time favorite books. You will weep and roar.

The jaw-dropping life-inspiring woman who wrote this book (an older, unlikely, unfit and unhappy woman) Nuala O'Faolain died this week. She gave a heart-stopping interview few weeks ago, a radio interview in which she wept and ranted about her fate-- cancer, a few weeks, certain death.

She said this:

"WelI I am sick, but I am trying to say goodbye. So much has happened and it seems such a waste of creation that with each death all that knowledge dies.

I think there's a wonderful rule of life that means that we do not consider our own mortality. I know we seem to, and remember, 'man thou art but dust', but I don't believe we do. I believe there is an absolute difference between knowing that you are likely to die, let's say within the next year, and not knowing when you are going to die -- an absolute difference."

Carol Shields, another of the Matron's favorite writers, died of cancer in 2003. The Matron remembers a shattering interview, in which the terminal Shields laughed about how she initially took comfort in her Pulitzer Prize. This, she thought, would grant her some degree of immortality, cheat death.

Then she went through the entire list of Pulitzer Prize winners and realized how very few she knew - how anonymous, how spent, how sand-like even the 'famous' were. She barely knew any of them. They were dust to her.

Read the transcript of O'Faolain's interview. Read her books, Are You Somebody and My Dream of You. Really. The Matron is smart that way -- you will be forever changed.

And when you're tempted to watch Lost instead of working on the novel, the poems, the art, remember this haunting line from a New York Times book review. The writer was reviewing the singular, slight volume of poetry a writer produced before she died of cancer at age 40 --a blazing talent with barely any work to her name.

So here are the lines the Matron tries to remember each morning:

"What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver.

"Skip the party and write the poems" Can't remember from the Times Book Review.

My Dream of You is a perfect title. The dream's the ticket.

18 comments:

Jocelyn said...

Oh, punkin'. See? I love/d Nuala, too; yet I just found out tonight, as I downloaded last week's Fresh Air podcasts, that she had died.

Then you mention Carol Shields and Mary Oliver, and now I'm moving in with you. Warn Dat Hell Dog.

Hey, totally random: so if you need another woman writer hero, and if you haven't read FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel, try that. She can become another author to admire. In addition to your own self.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

My friend died at 46 almost a month ago--it comforts us all to know he spent so much time fulfilling his dream of being a cinematographer. It really does make a difference.

JessTrev said...

Thank *you* for writing. I think that's part of why all of us blog. I know it's made me so much more creative IRL to be messing around online. Some because of the actual practice of writing daily and some because of the community. I heart your words. Will have to check Nuala out.

Anonymous said...

Oh... that was a really poetic post, and you gave me some good inspirations to check out...

You had me in the beginning, but you lost me at Lost. I just can't give up Lost. I can't! I won't!

Mrs. G. said...

I'm not sure how I missed that Nuala O'Faolain died last week. I will go and read her interview. Her memoir Are You Somebody? is so good. What a beautiful post-I think I will put her picture beside my bed for a while to remember her bold life and some of the amazing (and reckless!) choices she made in her life.

Ari_1965 said...

Thank you. I'll check for these titles at the lovely Washington County library in Woodbury. I still can't get over that they have a coffee bar/ice cream place attached AND you can bring both food and beverages into the library. Not that I've done so--I was taught Thou Shalt Not Bring Food or Beverages Into the Library is the 13th commandment.

Nora said...

It's a big coincidence, but that is the book I am reading right now and I am enjoying it a lot. I just finished Are you Somebody?

She was a great woman! What a waste of a human being.

Allmycke said...

Two of my many favourite authors mentioned in one post!
Shields and O'Faolain are authors whose books I keep on reading over and over again - as I do with Atwood and Laurence (Margarets both)

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

The dream is the ticket for sure. Great post, Matron.

Jennifer S said...

I hadn't heard this news, and I'm sad with you now. I remember reading My Dream of You, and how much I loved it. She was an amazing writer, and now I want to go back and read her again.

For now, I will listen to the interview and be sad. And inspired.

Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with her - yet....but Mrs G describes her life as reckless and amazing....
I think it's better to be those things than have regrets about NOT doing things later in life.

Anyhow reckless and amazing is always more interesting.

Bonnie said...

Reckless and Amazing would definitely look good on the the ol' tombstone!

Thanks MM - you are an inspiration.

I want to weep and roar with you -

xoxo

Angie said...

What a great post....so true. I just ordered the book and look forward to the weeping.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Anonymous said...

You inspire. I'm going to check this out.

Madge said...

the dream is the ticket. holding onto it at this point in our lives is the challenge. i guess it always is but seems more so now when we are juggling the family and all.... thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

My Dream of You is an amazing, amazing book. I felt like I'd entered someone else's psyche. Which I guess is sort of what happened.

She She said...

I read Nuala's autobiography a couple of years ago and was changed. She had a true and unique voice, and I'm so glad she shared it with us.

We almost named our daughter Nuala, but went for Nora instead. Close.

Anonymous said...

Years ago, I picked up "Are you Somebody?" mainly because the title seemed so strange, different, and really, a question so universally appealing.

And then I was gripped with this insane need to love somebody. Those few lines stuck.

Like Joan Didion, she expounds such hard, harsh truths, but in more simple, accessible language.

What does happen to all that knowledge once one passes? Having lost her entire immediate family within two short years, Didion states her lack of fear of dying, since most of the sadness and the fear stems from leaving behind those most loved.

Compare this to Randy Pausch in his now famous "The Last Lecture." Beauty has not been drained from life, but must be crammed into every small, remaining conceivable space in the short time remaining.

So few answers.

Thanks for this post.