Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dog, homework, novel, mind (ate)

Can I blame my novel? Or is this a random collapse, reasoned as a windstorm or a barking dog?

I am clinically depressed. I expect this bout started in May, after I’d finished Double-blind and taken ARCs to Book Expo. I remember feeling utterly lost that weekend, not just a little fish but quite unmoored. I’m not a party girl, and crowd after crowd wore me. But I should have been happy.
The depression bore down. A death in June hit me hard. Another trip to Toronto and then Ottawa in July was difficult; I tired so easily, wanted only to stay inside or be alone. I forced myself out into the sun, into social gatherings.

In August I went camping with my family in Gros Morne. Respite: family time, devotional time.

Then I crashed. Weird disproportionate sadness. Shattered sleep. A tentacled desire to keep still. Weeks without writing. Just before I was go to Winterset in Summer as part of the New Voices panel.

I was due in Eastport on a Thursday. I started meds that Tuesday. Driving out, I pulled off just west of Clarenville to beat my head against the steering wheel while some demented despair took me. Deciding on (alleged) coffee at Irving nearly defeated me. Some automated face worked: I spoke, answered questions, listened. But all I wanted was to lie on the bed and keep still.

Participating in Winterset in Summer on Saturday took all my strength. I read, was part of a panel, received an unexpected sum on money to put towards the expenses of writing my next book – all amazing things.
All miles above.

Back to probable cause. I expect I’m wired funny, prone to melancholy – there’s certainly a streak of it in the extended family. But this particular collapse: fatigue. Not just the straining schedule I’ve kept, either, but the damn book.

Narrating a novel first-person through someone committing monstrous acts who yet does not see himself as evil is a tricky business. Dr. Bozeman is fictional, yes, and so is his story, but there’s precedent. Bloody precedent. Cameron and Mengele are perhaps the best-known examples of doctors experimenting unethically on patients, but they’re hardly alone.

Remember junior high English class, getting the list of the big conflicts, the big themes? Man against himself. Man’s inhumanity to man. While I’ve made a study of man’s inhumanity to man – hey, I’m an amateur historian – I don’t choose to tell these stories. They choose me. Stories scream. Like colicky babies.

Sure, it’s enough to drive ya mad.

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett
in progress