Recently I attended a writer's conference where Dorothy Allison spoke. Dorothy Allison is raw and hilarious. I loved her immediately. She is a prolific writer with awards lining her Northern California home's hallways.
But no, I honestly have not read any of her works, such as her book of poetry, The Women Who Hate Me, or her collection of short stories, Trash. Certainly, everyone has heard of Cavedweller, eventually adapted for a stage production; and Bastard Out of Carolina, which became an award-winning movie.
Despite the rather hostile titles, Allison speaks beautifully, which to me is the mark of brilliance, especially when it's more or less extemporaneous. She teaches as she speaks.
So I listened intently and took notes; except when I was, a couple of times, moved to the point where I had to turn the page and write a few lines of material myself. Thus, I missed the meaning behind a couple of her comments.
One of these comments was this: Humiliation <=> Glory.... They are the same thing. Period. Damn, I think I missed something, although I did get it down with the double arrow and everything. But the context was lost on me. Perhaps some one of you out there who is familiar with Ms. Allison can elucidate this for me? Is it as simple as humiliation will set you free and therein lies glory? Or maybe after years of humiliation comes the glory? Help me, please.
Something she said right up front just had me on the floor: "I like nasty, complicated people." So, that's when I turned to my backpage and started scribbling--good thing I can even read it now: I said,
"But what about me? I'm not particularly nasty, even if I know for darned sure that I'm way overcomplicated to the edge of self-injurious behavior." Well. Maybe I'm a little too close to make that judgment.
Then Dorothy said that writers have this "undertone...I'm not good enough, I'll never succeed..."
So back to my personal scribbles: "But--what if you don't feel that way, you actually know you're okay, you're great, in fact, and you actually do feel centered and balanced, some of the time, anyway." I am so not good enough, in fact, that I could not stand to hear my present teacher say that, thus, I needed to turn the tables and vindicate myself.
As I listened, I had this strange, guilty feeling that I don't belong here, not in this room, not with these people that Ms. Allison said are our nation, a nation of writers. I want to be alone. I want to just write. I want to listen to and hear and experience my own voice. I don't need someone's silly critiques based on two sentences of a 5,000-word essay. Now--is this because at root, I'm a nasty, complicated, insecure, frightened, unbelieving, imbalanced, ugly human being? Meaning I actually belong in this troupe of other nasty, complicated people without a nation? Afraid someone is going to shut me down into a box manufactured of his or her or their own smallness and irrelevance?
That was cruel, very, very cruel. One side of me thinks I'm great, just to offset my own irrelevance and small mind. And then I take it out on my fellow writers. I'm so sorry. I apologize; it was just one of my rants, some of that, you know, bile.
I took one more note down at the end, a quote she provided from Bob Marley, the master of self-emancipation:
"Emancipate yourself from...uh-oh...did I write 'mental' or 'mortal'?...slavery."
Alright, since I missed that one, too, I'll just interpret it as I see fit: First,
a) "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery." This means, quite simply, shut up. Get quiet. Accept your nation and what comes with it, or go away, but just shut up.
b) "Emancipate yourself from mortal slavery." Ahhhh. Now, I shall let loose the shackles that tie me to my mortal coil, as the admitted cliche goes. Death, you ask? Oh, no, not necessarily. What is painfully mortal must retreat, and then...I'll get quiet.
My, now. Ultimately, they both mean the same thing. I'll be darned.
"Humiliation <=> Glory. They are both the same thing," said Dorothy Allison.