Bluebeard’s Castle: memoir’s dark side
My readers probably don’t accuse me of holding back, of being too discreet, and of hiding the truth. And yet I’ve been realizing more and more that there are things I just don’t write much about. My disability. My family of origin. Things I know which somehow seem too…well, not exactly scary but not “appropriate.”
Poetry, with its figurative language, can reveal as well as hide, a kind of dance of the seven veils done by the writer for the reader’s delectation.
But what about prose?
In the fairy tale, the evil Bluebeard tells his most recent wife she can go into any room in his castle. Then he gives her a key to that room. And off he goes . Of course she opens the door. And finds the corpses of his previous wives. Some hanging on hooks. Some moaning as ghosts. And has to be rescued by her sister and brother. It is impossible to go into—and get out of—that room alone.
I’m sixty years old. I’ve always loved Life in Hell, a weekly comic strip by Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. My favorite: one little creature asks another, as they look at the spooky abode on a mountain top, “Why do people go into Count Dracula’s Castle when it is CALLED Count Dracula’s Castle?”
Because we deny the frightening truth about things. Maybe this time the castle will be Club Med. But probably not.
So what to do as a writer? I’m making a list of topics that haunt me, even if I have no idea where they should go. What I knew about the bar scene on Polk Street before AIDS. My father’s stroke. Suicide hot lines. The end of the SDS. Maybe even some things I just brushed against, don’t really own, haven’t digested, will never understand.
I do wonder if I can write about them.