Wednesday, November 23, 2005
In My Life
Let me start this blog by reassuring everyone that, truly, I am not a redneck; I’m not even close to approximating one. I might have made my iPod joke the other day, but especially due to the nature of this particular post, I want everyone to have a pretty decent handle on the kind of girl I am. So here we go: I’m southern by birth, well-traveled and sophisticated by the grace of God. That would be me. I grew up in Atlanta, a cosmopolitan city that has, in recent years, morphed into a disappointing megalopolis that I hardly recognize anymore. The distinctive southern flavor of my hometown has given way to generic, homogenized overgrowth of epic proportions. Where people used to wave one another into traffic, they now bowl them over at eighty miles an hour. No wonder I decided to move away.
For college, I did a four-year stint right outside DC in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Every weekend was spent visiting museums and dance clubs and hanging out in Adams Morgan. It was the eighties then, a time when the 9:30 Club on F Street was the place to be, whether for slam dancing, techno cool, or pre-grunge rock. After my freshman year I biked a thousand miles across Europe in a month; I have to tell you, if you want to see Europe up close and personal, there’s nothing like being invited into a German lady’s home for fresh lemonade.
Later, I returned to Europe for a semester studying in London where the walls of my more sheltered childhood life kept crumbling down (acknowledgments to John Mellencamp.) After college, working in the movie business certainly removed what was left of my naïve, rose-tinted lenses. Enough so that it might possibly explain why I headed back to London once again, roaming around the world (just like the B52’s, who were oddly popular at that exact time) in search of some higher definition of self. And then—and only then—did I decide to let my roots grow deep in the town of my birth: Atlanta.
All of that is my effort to establish my bonafides, to prove before I go further on this topic, that I am not a redneck. Why prove that fact? So I can foist my latest literary observation upon all you poor, reading folk. Here it is: What if writers were wrestlers? What a colorful literary landscape it would be!
My childhood took place in the era before wrestling was packaged and well-produced, a high-powered glitz affair at home on Pay-per-view. Mine was the era of Gordon Solie narrating Georgia Championship Wrestling by video on Sunday nights on WTBS. He was the man of easy poetry, who made that ring like a Shakespearean stage. He taught me “bedlam”, “pandemonium” and a dozen other fifty-cent words. He was a lyrical genius who could make grappling in front of a “live” studio audience of twenty seem like a Promethean battle fought in the coliseum.
My parents sent all of us to one of the most prominent prep schools in the country, but kudos to my dad for taking me one night to a real deal live wrestling match. I’ll never forget that night, how some genuine redneck tossed my baseball cap into the ring and Dick Slater handed it back. So here’s the thing, my friends: people are a complex tapestry. Here I am, preppy, Euro-gal, and I found a taste for drama, for that mystical thing that drives me as a writer, early on in the high drama of wrestling theater. My favorite books include WAR AND PEACE (waves at Diana!), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, anything Salinger, anything Kerouac, anything that moves the world a little. I own a first edition of THE SECRET HISTORY, love Spike Lee movies, and grew up on The Who, the Police and The Smiths.
My point? We are all an amalgam of our influences, a wide spectrum of tastes and impulses. Which means that for us as writers, any characterization that falls short of that standard will, quite simply, fail to meet character where it really happens—in the realm of the complex.
And that is, undoubtedly, more than any of you wanted to know about my childhood. Have a blessed, wonderful, and grateful Thanksgiving. I am deeply thankful to have all of you, my blogging friends, in my life!